20 May 2012

Weather forecasts anyone?

What: WeatherSpark (a weather forecasting website)
Where: http://www.weatherspark.com/
When: 24/7

I've tried a few weather forecasting websites and apps, but the best I've found is WeatherSpark.

WeatherSpark is a new type of weather website, with interactive weather graphs that allow you to pan and zoom through the entire history of any weather station on earth.

Get multiple forecasts for the current location, overlaid on records and averages to put it all in context. 
Main "Dashboard" screen
There is also a simplified but very nice mobile version as well should you point your mobile phone or tablet browser to the site. As far as I know there are no apps or widgets for WeatherSpark.

Forecast screen
Note: I've found the met.no data to be the most reliable for New Zealand forecasting, but you can sort out which data to use at your leisure.


13 May 2012

Great Sci-Fi books - for FREE!

Do you like science fiction books? If you do then you should check out the Baen Free Library.

Baen Books is very generously making available (for free!) a number of its titles in electronic format. Anyone who wishes can read these titles online - no conditions, no strings attached. Or, if you prefer, you can download the books in one of several ebook formats (epub, mobi, etc.). Again, with no conditions or strings attached. Enjoy.

Also, check out an online database of Baen Free Library collection CD releases HERE.

06 May 2012

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

Iron Maiden are one of the pioneering heavy metal bands that came out of England in the late '70s/early '80s and became to be referred to as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). They are by far the most successful of this group of bands (other NWOBHM bands include Def Leppard, Saxon and Samson).

Their first album, self-titled Iron Maiden was released in 1980 and they have produced a steady stream of both studio and live albums ever since.

Their latest release is the excellent The Final Frontier released on 2010. It peaked at No. 1 in 28 different countries and has received widespread critical acclaim.

Kerrang! called it "a record that'll still bowl you over in a decade's time" and Metal Hammer deemed it "a demanding album, but one that most Maiden fans are going to absolutely adore."

These two reviews sum it up pretty well I'd say. I've been listening to Iron Maiden for nearly 30 years and this for me is one of their best. It doesn't quite match the raw, powerful 'golden era' albums such as Number Of The Beast and Powerslave, but it has a fresh progressive voice that blends nicely with the classic Maiden sound.


03 May 2012

Guerrilla Mail...simply brilliant!

UPDATE#1: 01June2012 - Guerillamail is currently down...will keep you posted. Bummer.
UPDATE#2: 04June2012 - Guerillamail is back in operation. Nice.

I went to download a free giveaway ebook today and (as usual) they wanted my email address and details before they sent me the link to the ebook file.
Having been down this road before I knew that they'd only want to bother me by email about other things I "might like to purchase".
Away from me you evil-doers! I don't want to be harassed by you (just want the free book) so I utilised this...

Guerrilla Mail
gives you a disposable email address which lasts for 60 minutes. There is no need to register, simply visit Guerrilla Mail and a random address will be set. You can also choose your own address.
You can give your email address to whoever you do not trust. You can view the email on Guerrilla Mail, click on any confirmation link, then delete it. Any future spam sent to the disposable email will be zapped by Guerrilla Mail, never reaching your mail box, keeping your mail box safe and clean.

I've used it a few times now and reckon it's one of the best things since sliced bread.


02 May 2012

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

Ghost Brigades.jpg

Here we have the second book set in the "Old Man's War universe". It tells the story of Jane Sagan (who we met in Old Man's War) and what she and the elite Ghost Brigades get up to. This story is slightly different in that it is a third-person narrative. Jane Sagan and Harry Wilson are the only primary characters returning from Old Man's War, with John Perry receiving only passing mention and reference to events at the Battle of Coral.

On a frozen world, an important individual in a secret scientific military installation is hustled to safety during the bombardment of the base. Following his capture, the individual, identified as Rraey Administrator Caeden, is interrogated by Special Forces Lieutenant Jane Sagan who informs him that he has been deprived a vital enzyme in his body and will suffer debilitating pain and death if he does not accept the treatments they provide. In return he will provide them with information relating a recent military alliance between his culture and two others (the Eneshan, and the Obin) that threaten the survival of the Human Colonial Union (CU).

It is revealed, on the CU planet Phoenix, that an eminent scientist and BrainPal expert, Charles Boutin has committed suicide. However, when the autopsy suggests that the body is actually a clone, and that Boutin has betrayed the human race after preserving his brain pattern in a computer, the top brass in Military Research decide to create a Special Forces body from Boutin's DNA and attempt to instill it with Boutin's consciousness to discern what happened to drive him to betray humanity. With the threat of the anti-CU alliance threatening the sovereignty of the Colonial Union, the need for an answer becomes increasingly important throughout the course of events.
The body and activated BrainPal of Boutin is born and named Jared Dirac, as all Special Forces are named with a typical first name and given the last name of a famous scientist or philosopher. When Dirac fails to express the personality of Boutin after receiving the transfer of Boutin's consciousness he is inducted into the Ghost Brigades and begins training, followed soon after by combat tours with Sarah Pauling, as his partner and 'best-beloved', and Jane Sagan as his commanding officer, who resents his presence due to the potential that he will betray his comrades.
Throughout the course of his tours of duty, Dirac has to deal with the loss of his friends, and flashes of memories of a life he never actually lived, while trying to find out who he himself really is.
After multiple tramatic experiences in combat, Dirac begins to recall certain aspects of Boutin's life and grows to develop several personality quirks seen in the traitorous scientist. He also begins to recall certain specific memories without truly adopting the frame of mind held by his physical and psychological template. However, as ships of the Ghost Brigades begin disappearing across human-controlled space, Dirac is hustled by his commanders to provide some clues to the aims of the traitor Boutin.
Finally, having regained the majority of Boutin's consciousness, Dirac joins Sagan and her unit in an assault of Boutin's laboratory deep in hostile territory. On approach, the team lose the function of their BrainPals, and with this, their ability to function as a cohesive unit or even use their weaponry.
Dirac is captured by the aliens and brought to Boutin, who reveals that he intends to use Dirac as a physical template for the direct transfer of his consciousness and then use Dirac's BrainPal to unleash a mental virus among the entire CDF and kill all of its soldiers. His reasoning is that without the tyrannical CDF, humanity will have a chance to broker for peace with the Conclave: a burgeoning alliances among other alien races, which promises to protect member states/species while potentially conquering the worlds of non-member states. Dirac's mind is overwritten during the transfer of Boutin's consciousness, but in a last ditch effort, Dirac leaves a program in his body that causes his blood to oxidize shortly after he is overtaken, thus eliminating Boutin's consciousness as well.
Boutin's daughter Zoƫ is taken from the scene by Sagan, who later adopts the young girl and plans to raise her with John Perry.

Rating from me: 10/10

Followed by The Last Colony.

Synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia