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A. J. Mcveigh "andrewmcveigh" (Sevenoaks, UK)

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Acer Aspire 1810TZ, 11.6inch HD LCD, Laptop, 4GB,  160GB, Intel Pentium processor SU4100, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bt, 8hr Battery (black)
Acer Aspire 1810TZ, 11.6inch HD LCD, Laptop, 4GB, 160GB, Intel Pentium processor SU4100, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bt, 8hr Battery (black)

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stellar battery life, very good performance, 23 Mar. 2010
I've had this now for about 3mths, and it has been a fantastic purchase. I do a lot of programming/development work on the train, and I wanted something that was powerful enough with a good battery life.

Out of the box, this thing really impressed me. Good build quality, very sleek. I am managing to get around 6-7hrs of development time (quite disk intensive) out of this per charge. When I just edit documents I'm getting even longer. At one point I got around 10+ hrs. Basically, I can take it out for the day without taking the charger. Very impressive. I find I don't alway have to recharge every night. I have to keep reminding myself that even when the battery is down to 20% or so that I've still got a couple of hrs left.

I've found the performance to be very decent. I'm not doing anything too intensive though. The dual core cpu helps, can't remember the speed, but in practice it's decent -- many times better than my netbook. In fact, it's so decent that I'm toying with retiring my current desktop. 3gb of RAM -- i've not had any problems running Eclipse (a java IDE) with a fairly hefty project that I created for my phd.

Windows 7 on this thing is a joy. I'm a linux developer by preference, so I'm normally a bit biased, but on this laptop Windows hasn't given me any trouble at all. Resumes very quickly (between 5 and 20secs), never had any problems with it. The Windows 7 interface is quite minimalistic and sparse -- a great improvement over vista. The windows version included is 64-bit -- it's actually much more convenient and seamless than I had anticipated. It runs my 32-bit apps (including the JVM + Eclipse and syncbackse) without problems.

Anyway, that's my experience with this laptop. I've been extremely impressed, and I've not regretted my purchase at all.

Some particulars: no DVI output, it's HDMI which is a bit annoying but i'm looking fwd to getting an HDMI-capable monitor. has a analogue VGA output. The keyboard doesn't have raised edges on the keys, which is normally a bit of a problem for me, but I can cope ok on this one. I think it ok because the keys are quite well separated, I've managed to adjust. Some of the dual keys (e.g. function + right cursor for end etc) are a bit annoying -- i find myself often turning down the screen brightness instead of going to the end of a line. oh well, I could always remap the keys. The keys are actually a decent size on this, as opposed to many netbooks. It's something like 95% of the size of a normal keyboard. Clever use of space. The mouse buttons on the laptop are a bit cheap in feel but passable. The mousepad supports multitouch etc, but i found it gets in the way so i turned it off...

The display is glossy, which hasn't caused as much problems as I'd expected. Generally very readable except in very bright light. I use it on the train without problems. No problems with wifi or anything else. Very much recommended.

Modular Java: Creating Flexible Applications with OSGi and Spring (Pragmatic Programmers)
Modular Java: Creating Flexible Applications with OSGi and Spring (Pragmatic Programmers)
by Craig Walls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars flawed book, but excellent anyway, 2 Sept. 2009
I bought this book to look into OSGi and how Spring dynamic modules supports the configuration of this. I hummed and hawed about buying it, but I'm glad in the end that I did.

The book is very clear, succinct and to the point. It explains the basics of OSGi (it's really not that hard, the official OSGi reference manuals makes it seem insanely difficult and convoluted) and shows how to build a simple app. OSGi is really not that difficult or complex, actually -- it just enforces runtime conformance of package imports and exports! The book also explains OSGi services in a very straightforward way. It then moves on to show how Spring DM makes these easier to configure.

There are some really important (and I suspect hard to come by) nuggets of gold here. Things like "[fragments] cannot replace any of their host's existing content" (page 166) and "Require-Bundle: has approximately the same effect as using Import-Package: to import all of the packages within a given bundle" (page 153). These particular comments really clarified a number of things for me. Really nice to know this, and the text presents it all in a concise and understandable manner. I wish all OSGi docs could be this clear and this concise.

A further plus, is that the book is short. At 180 odd pages of actual text content, and quite readable, you could easily get through it in a day or so. I got through most of it in one afternoon.

Why do I call it flawed? Well, it uses pax-construct and maven throughout, and you have to wade through quite a lot of output from these tools to understand what is going on. While I'm sure these tools have made it easier to write the book, and they are clearly useful, they tend to obscure understanding of what is actually going on at the underlying OSGi manifest level. Bummer. You can sort of work it out mostly, but it would be better if rather than showing too much of the tool output, the book showed more of the OSGi header info.

So, why do I still give it 5 stars? Simply because the benefits of the information presented greatly outweigh any negatives. I got a lot out of the book in a very short time, and it showed to me how simply the underlying technologies (OSGi, Spring DM) actually are. In that respect, it is way better than 99% of the books in this space.

The Prophet of Yonwood (Ember, Book 3)
The Prophet of Yonwood (Ember, Book 3)
by Jeanne DuPrau
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars little to do with ember, lacking in nuance and dogmatically anti-religion, 5 Nov. 2008
I didn't find this a great read. Some of this is due to objective factors: the positioning of the book in the series and how it relates. Some of it is due to my own subjective factors which reflects my beliefs: its comprehensive anti-theistic bias which I personally found unjustified and lacking in nuance.

So, it's the 3rd in the Ember series. The first 2 books are great -- i'm an adult, but I was transfixed reading the account of how the children came to escape from Ember, and then gradually learn to live with the people of Sparks above ground. The books follow a bit of a theme: closed worlds where simple moral lessons are taught. In the first book, we have a closed world underground where the notion of "running out of resources" can be explored. It chimes well with the topical issue of environmental crisis. Issues of corruption and greed are also explored. Good stuff. The second book explores the notion of limited resources and how we share in a society: do we share justly or do we hoard? What does it mean to be part of a tribe. It touches on the notion of culture loss, and global devastation. Neat.

So, let's examine the third book from an objective point of view. On the face of it the setup is quite clever -- it uses the notion of a woman from a Christian church in a small town having a vision of devastation. She is then called "the Prophet" and while she is resting in bed, a woman called Beeson "interprets" what she says. In fact, the Prophet is ill and just mumbles. Beeson twists and turns the words to get the townspeople to conform to her idea of sinless perfection. Needless to say, that idea is pretty horrible -- it involves drawing up lists of people to get a nasty bracelet that is a form of low-grade torture etc. Then things like dogs are banned. The townspeople suspect there is a terrorist in their midst, and behave often out of fear in fairly unpleasant way.

So, clever from the perspective of a critique of religion. It approaches it from a perspective of how can all these people be correct when they claim to have visions / information from God. The word and concept of God is used a lot. It's very vague what it means, and it is uniformly interpreted as a -ve thing, although the interpretation of the followers of the prophet are depicted as trying to do the right thing. It seems fairly clear that the use of "Prophet" could be linked into a critique of Islam/Mohammed as well. I also thought he notion of banning dogs as pets might be linked. Quite clever.

Unfortunately, non of this has anything really to do with Ember. You find out in the last couple of pages that it is tenuously linked, but the book really only fits thematically in with the other 2. As such, it would have been far better published as a stand-alone novel on the dangers of letting your own ideal of truth let you do unpleasant and horrible things to other people. The character Nickie is not particularly interesting, and some of the dialog seems forced. The use of a deus ex machina in the guise of Hoyt McCoy is really pretty bad as a literary device. Poor stuff. Particularly compared to Ember and Sparks which had no need for this type of thing. So, on its own an average book with a clever conceit that isn't properly realised.

On a subjective basis (i'm christian), the book portrays religious people as mary whitehouse-like manipulators (Beeson). There's no nuance. It's a constant and beating theme throughout the book. If you want to reaffirm the atheistic beliefs you've instilled in your children -- this is the book for you. If you want them to have a nuanced view of the issues regarding the nature of empirical and revealed truth -- definitely not. No +ve aspects of the church are discussed, it's all relentlessly -ve. This is not in any way my experience of the world, and to me the message is very forced. To deconstruct the message, it's fairly clear DuPrau blames religion for all the evils of the world. i.e. Get rid of religion and things sort themselves out. Greed / lust / power / hate -- these are all minor things in relation to the great evil of religion. As I said, it will simply preach to the converted or turn off any people of any religion.

And the last bit is where i find the book disingenuous. It's notionally a series teaching simple moral parables to children who lap this sort of stuff up, and then it declares all out war on any form of religion in a discontinuous storyline which although topical has nothing to do really with Ember. Hmm. Isn't that like proselytizing atheism to children? Anyway, different people will have different takes on it. I'm not letting my kids read it until they are older, but given the lack of objective merit in the story, i'm not sure that it's worth it.

The Best of 2000AD
The Best of 2000AD
by Mighty Tharg
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars too much breadth not enough depth, 13 Oct. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Best of 2000AD (Hardcover)
It's true: I'm a bit of a 2000AD dilettante. I used to read the magazines when i was a teenager ('80s) and i greatly enjoyed them: Strontium Dog, Halo Jones, Rogue Trooper etc. I've never been a die hard fan, but I enjoyed reading the stories through to their conclusions.

As such, the compilation is a bit of a disappointment. There are a reasonable number of series in here (60-70?) but most of them do not form complete stories. The Strontium Dog and Sam Sade ones stopped at the best bits. With the Same Slade series, we got to where he was on the planet of the robots and about to blast his way out. What happens next?!?! Sure, Judge Dredd and some others were complete, but they were in the minority.

So, it's a good quality book: hardback, well made and bound. However, they really could do with including less series and focusing more on completing the storylines for each included series. i.e. less breadth of series and more depth (of storylines)

Old Man's War (The Old Man's War series)
Old Man's War (The Old Man's War series)
by John Scalzi
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars redeemed by optimism, 16 Sept. 2008
This was quite a mixed book for me. I found the writing to be fairly poor (actually, I find the writing of most science fiction to be poor). The style is very easy to read, but almost amateurish. The choice of names (Jane, John etc) and the informal style of writing grated on me a bit as did the vulgar names chosen by each person for their "brainpal" (a computer put into their brains).

The story is quite good fun, even if it does have strange fascist overtones. The basic ideas is that when people get to about 75, they are eligible to join the CDF (colonial defence force) who give them new bodies (with green skin and cat's eyes!) and then they go to fight lots of aliens to preserve the human colonies. I laughed out loud as the book then described how all the previously old people had non-stop sex for a fortnight after getting their new bodies! Very funny almost at the level of fantasty, but also quite cliched I think.

The interesting theme for me was the interweaving of the main character's relationship with his wife (new and old). This is definitely worth a follow up, and i'll probably check out the sequel just to follow that aspect.

The endless desctruction of alien empires worried me a bit. This is described in some detail, and reminded me a bit of starship troopers, but without the satirical elements. He does feel a bit guilty when he's crushing buildings created by aliens an inch high, so that's ok then...

An easy read with some fun ideas. Not great literature by any means, though.

Belkin Laser USB Glow Mouse
Belkin Laser USB Glow Mouse

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good quality mouse, with good button placement, 23 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
(i'm using this under linux, but most of the comments will apply to windows also)

this is a good quality usb laser mouse with a scroll wheel (+ wheel button) and 2 extra buttons. The 2 extra buttons are arranged vertically under the wheel. They have good placement and can be pressed without looking at the mouse.

the main interest for me is that the mouse works very well in linux. by default in linux it's easy to click the wheel button by mistake, leading to a "paste" operation. causes me no end of grief. anyway, the top of the extra buttons can be remapped to the middle click in linux, avoiding the problem nicely (the top arrow button maps to button 9 in linux, and the bottom one maps to button 8). And because the extra buttons are placed under the wheel, it's quite convenient to press them.

oh -- the mouse also has a gimmick -- it glows in constantly changing colours. pleasant enough and quite classy, but i wouldn't buy it just for that ;-)

it's a usb mouse, but it comes with a usb to ps2 converter as well. the lead is about a metre long or so. some windows software was included also, which i haven't used.

all in all, a good quality laser mouse with nice extra buttons and a good feel to it. plus, the price is very good.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2008 11:01 AM BST

Logitech Wireless Desktop LX 710 Laser Keyboard and Mouse
Logitech Wireless Desktop LX 710 Laser Keyboard and Mouse

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very good wireless package for linux, with slight flaws, 9 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've had this for just over a day, so I can't tell you how long the batteries last. the first impressions after setting it up are that the keyboard looks incredibly slick and professional. the same with the mouse.

i'm using this under linux (ubuntu gutsy), so i can't use the logitech windows-based software. no big deal, however. i just plugged in the receiver to a usb port and it worked seamlessly. perhaps the windows software is just for remapping the keys. either way, in linux these facilities are already available via xmodmap so no big deal.

so the +ves are: works well under linux, uses RF rather than infrared (so no line of sight required), good responsiveness, lots of extra buttons.

the -ves: no caps lock, scroll lock or num lock led and no scroll lock key!, slightly odd front to the keyboard that acts as a bit of a bump, small-ish mouse (not great for big hands) and the scroll-wheel button is tough (very) to press -- hurts the pad of the finger after a while.

For me, I was able to counter most of the -ves. I've disabled capslock (I don't need it), and the scroll-wheel button being tough proved to be a blessing in disguise. under linux, this is mapped to the "paste" function and with the old mouse i was always pressing it by mistake ending up with spurious text in my documents. i've remapped the function to another mouse button -- very nice outcome for me.

the smallish mouse is a bit of pain, but not a killer. it cramps my large (i'm 6foot4) hand a bit, but nothing serious. i may get used to i. the mouse is heavy and quite sensitive, but i'm undecided if this represents an issue for me. the keyboard bump is bearable, although weird. oh, also -- the page up and page down buttons are in a slightly weird place. again, it's just getting used to it...

all in all, i'm happy with it for my linux setup.

Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2008 12:55 PM BST

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