30 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Tyler's Gold - Andrew Grant

What: Tyler's Gold
Who: Andrew Grant
When: Published December 12th 1999 by Shoal Bay Press

Tyler Smith is a New Zealand adventurer, mountain climber and salvage expert who has already become a legend among his fellow countrymen. Now the rumors circulate that he has discovered the wreckage and the gold of the General Grant - but has he?

The enigmatic Smith is one of the most recognizable faces in the South Pacific, but he is a man who few people actually know. Even his girl friend, the fiery and determined journalist Amanda Wylie, fails to comprehend the devious complexities of her lover. Neither does his long-time diving partner Falklands veteran Scotty Black. The secrets Smith holds could re-write the history books.

Smith and the crew of the salvage ship Skua have discovered a fortune in gold bullion, but they are not alone in the wild waters of the Auckland Islands. Who is Rhys Baron, and why is he out to destroy Smith, on a quest that has nothing and everything to do with Tyler's gold?

Set in the stormy seas south of New Zealand, Tyler's Gold is a rip-roaring tale of gold lust, hot sex, cold treachery and murder.

Strap yourself into your easy chair and prepare to take the ride of your life beyond the Roaring Forties into the sub-Antarctic wilderness with Tyler Smith and the crew of Skua.

Another pretty damn good book from Andrew Grant. It's not really, but sort of, a sequel to his earlier book Hawks. The stories are not linked, but they take place in the same 'universe' so-to-speak. Set in New Zealand with typically Kiwi characters, you get the same sort of experience reading this as you do with Hawks.

The basic premise of the story is that Tyler Smith, the main character, has learned of the location of quite a lot of gold that was on board a Nazi U-boat headed for South America. The U-boat allegedly sunk in the vicinity of the Auckland Islands to the south of New Zealand after being attacked off the coast of Africa. Smith is in the salvage business and has his own ship and crew, so he's off to recover the gold while keeping everything hush-hush under the cover-story of searching for the wreck of the General Grant.

What he doesn't bargain on is that an old enemy of his, Rhys Baron, has cottoned on to the fact that Smith is up to something and puts things in motion to follow him down to the islands on his own boat. Baron assembles a crew of badass thugs with weaponry and heads off in pursuit to obtain the loot for himself.

What ensues is a fantastic tale of adventure. There's lots of action on and off the water and things get pretty nasty between the two factions. We also eventually learn some background information that explains the bad blood between Smith and Baron.

If you have read and enjoyed Hawks, you will like this one just as much - if not more. The characters have a tad more depth than in the previous book and the action is just as exciting yet more believable. Another very good book.


Check it out at Goodreads.

27 January 2013

Freebooksifter - FREE Kindle ebooks

Kindles are awesome (as are other ereaders)

Check Freebooksifter out:


It's a nicely laid out and well catalogued directory of free ebooks available from the Amazon Kindle Store.

Of course, if you're not using a Kindle or a Kindle app, then you'll need to convert the files and strip any DRM encryption (Hint: use Calibre). It's not as difficult to do as it sounds...

22 January 2013

Box - online storage for your stuff

I've recently begun using Box - a free (for 5GB - pay for more) online/cloud storage service. It seems really great so far and there are apps available for Apple or Android devices to manage the stored files. I actually got 15GB for free having signed up using my Astro file manager on my Android phone. Sweet!

Seems like a nice alternative to Google Drive or Dropbox.


20 January 2013

A book worthy of another read - Tyler's Gold

Recently I decided that a re-read of Andrew Grant's excellent adventure thriller Tyler's Gold was in order. After reading Hawks for the third time, I was reminded of how good a yarn this bloke spins. Tyler's Gold suddenly rocketed up my 'to-read' list. See the back flap description below.

I'll post a review as soon as I'm done.

Tyler Smith is a New Zealand adventurer, mountain climber and salvage expert who has already become a legend among his fellow countrymen. Now the rumors circulate that he has discovered the wreckage and the gold of the General Grant - but has he?

The enigmatic Smith is one of the most recognizable faces in the South Pacific, but he is a man who few people actually know. Even his girl friend, the fiery and determined journalist Amanda Wylie, fails to comprehend the devious complexities of her lover. Neither does his long-time diving partner Falklands veteran Scotty Black. The secrets Smith holds could re-write the history books.

Smith and the crew of the salvage ship Skua have discovered a fortune in gold bullion, but they are not alone in the wild waters of the Auckland Islands. Who is Rhys Baron, and why is he out to destroy Smith, on a quest that has nothing and everything to do with Tyler's gold?

Set in the stormy seas south of New Zealand, Tyler's Gold is a rip-roaring tale of gold lust, hot sex, cold treachery and murder.

Strap yourself into your easy chair and prepare to take the ride of your life beyond the Roaring Forties into the sub-Antarctic wilderness with Tyler Smith and the crew of Skua.

Alien Life: Scientists Claim Fossilized Algae Inside Meteorite

Last year we had reported "Russia Found Alien Life On Moon".

Now in another interesting develpment, Fossilized algae recently discovered inside a Sri Lankan meteorite could finally prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life, claim the authors of the new paper.

In a recently published article in the Journal of Cosmology titled “Fossil Diatoms in a New Carbonaceous Meteorite”, scientists from the UK and Sri Lanka claim to have found fossilized algae in a meteorite.

The paper alleges that “microscopic fossilized diatoms were found in the sample,” which fell in Sri Lanka in December last year. The finding, the work suggests is a “strong evidence to support the theory of cometary panspermia.” The theory argues that life across planets is spread by meteorites and asteroids.  Panspermia suggests that life could have existed on another planet and moved to Earth.

The scientists concluded the paper by saying “the presence of structures of this kind in any extra-terrestrial setting could be construed as unequivocal proof of biology.”

Samples from the rock were collected immediately after a large meteorite disintegrated and fell in the village of Araganwila in Sri Lanka on 29 December 2012.

The scientific community, including Prof Francis Thackeray from the Institute of Human Evolution at Wits University welcomed the report as  “very exciting” yet “very controversial”, as samples could have been contaminated on earth, Business Day reports.

Comparison of a Polonnaruwa meteorite structure with a well-known terrestrial diatom. (Image from www.journalofcosmology.com)

18 January 2013

BOOK: John Scalzi's new 'episodic' novel

What: The Human Division
Who: John Scalzi
When: 2013 (#1 published Jan 15 - #13 published April 9)

Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.

I've just completed Episode #1 - The B Team of this new 'episodically' released novel set in Scalzi's familiar and excellent Old Man's War (OMW) universe. Essentially I buy and download a new weekly episode from Amazon for my Kindle for the grand total of 99 cents each time. Couldn't be simpler!

This was a good introduction to this new story. Apparently each one will be readable in it's own right but still form part of the larger story that will be published in it's entirety after the episodes are finished. I did find that my previous knowledge of the OMW universe books (which are some of the most fun sci-fi books I've read) did help a little with the background to this story, but shouldn't be a stumbling block for anyone reading these without first having read the previous books.

Typical Scalzi humour (he does sarcasm SO well) and intelligent dialogue make for a fun read.  Gonna be an epic story throughout the full 13 episodes. Excellent.


17 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hawks - Andrew Grant

What: Hawks
Who: Andrew Grant
When: Published December 12th 1999 by Shoal Bay Press

Hawks is a tale of New Zealand's wild south-west, set during the early years of the venison recovery industry. This was a time when the cowboys rode choppers instead of horses and used semi-automatic weapons, not six guns. They lived, worked and sometimes dies in the most rugged and spectacular corner of this country - the vast Fiordland wilderness.
Hawks is a fictional tale but the fast action depicted here might very well have happened. It is the story of Gray, an enigmatic young man running from his past and the horrors of the Vietnam war. He returns to New Zealand's southern lands to find himself in a war of a very different kind - a dangerous war for the highest profits, set against some of the most inhospitable country in the world.
With the deadly skills he learned in the SAS, Gray becomes the top gun, the man every chopper pilot wants in the shooter's seat on his machine as the competition gets fiercer and men begin to take increasingly desperate risks. Some make mistakes and some die. Others are killed apparently having made no mistakes at all.
Gray's story encompasses life and death as well as love. Unashamedly robust, Hawks tells it like it really was, or could have been, as greed and jealousy and a woman named Mary combine in an explosive finale.

This is one of the best "ripping yarn" books that I've ever read. It's an action-packed tale with a great plot, realistic characters and good action.

Set among the wild New Zealand back country and the people of the helicopter deer recovery industry, we follow shooter Gray, an ex-army Vietnam vet with a few demons from his past along for the ride. Gray gets himself involved with a capture company and quickly becomes one of the best there is at his craft. Throw into the mix some superb aerial hunting action, crazy pilots, helicopter crashes, hard-core drinking sessions, some complex love interests and a bit of sex, hey-presto...we get a brilliant story worthy of so much praise.

An excellent read and the characters couldn't be any more apt. I know a number of people who have read this book and all have come away hugely impressed.

The real gem in this book is the Epilogue. While very sad, it is actually my favourite part. The mixture of happiness and bitterness that encompass Gray throughout the story all blend together to form a very satisfactory conclusion.

Andrew Grant (real name Grant Shanks) is a superb author who knows his subject matter well, and knows how to put it all together into a great story. Hawks is one example.

Read it.


Check it out at Goodreads.

13 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Rock - Robert Doherty

The RockThe Rock by Bob Mayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a standalone novel by Robert Doherty (pen-name for Bob Mayer), an author that you have seen me write about a few times before. This is the first standalone of his that I've read, all of the others have been series or linked novels like his excellent Area 51 series and the Jim Vaughn books (Section 8 & The Citadel).

The Rock employs this author's standard modus operandi of tight military action, historical intrigue and speculative science fiction. I don't know of another author who pulls off this genre so well. Actually, I can't even name another author who writes anything like this. If you do then please let me know because I really love it.

A team of people with various professions are summoned to Ayers Rock in Australia to help determine the cause of mysterious radio transmissions emanating from within the rock. On top of this, there are two nuclear bombs from a rogue former Soviet state loose somewhere on the planet - one of which is detonated in South Africa. Also, the Voyager space probe suddenly goes missing. All of this combines into a plot that takes a few turns along the way.

As is usually the case, Doherty's main character is a heroic military man who carries his own demons with him throughout the story. This is okay, beacause I think Doherty does this very well - no doubt due to his own military special forces background. The other characters are an interesting mix of people who all play significant roles in the story.

The book is well-written and fast-moving. Both are traits that I've come to expect from this author. However, I didn't like how quickly the story came to an end. It seemed that at one point we were rocketing along with the story with all of the action and gunfire, etc., and then the book is winding up. It's like Doherty was in a hurry to finish before exceeding his word count, or his editor wasn't at their best that day. Either way, it's only a minor niggle.

Overall the book is fantastic and what I sort of expected when I picked it up (or, in my case, downloaded it from Amazon). I haven't read anything from this author that I haven't liked, to be honest.

View all my reviews

10 January 2013

How true...

"The one thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from

Leonard Ravenhill

30 Cool eBooks You Can Grab For Less Than $3 Each

30 Cool eBooks You Can Grab For Less Than $3 Each

We loves us some good eBook deals! Here’s a handful of eBook by top-name authors that you can grab right now for less than 3 bucks — some of them free!

[Note: All of these titles are priced under $3 at the time of writing this post, but prices are subject to change, so check the price before clicking “buy”. If Amazon is not your eBook ecosystem, please do look up the titles wherever you buy your eBooks -- I spent enough time putting this together.]

  1. Radix (The Radix Tetrad) by A. A. Attanasio (A. A. Attanasio)
  2. The End of the Matter (Pip and Flinx) by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey)
  3. Out of the Silent Planet: (Space Trilogy, Book One) by C. S. Lewis (HarperOne)

  1. The Crystal Spheres by David Brin ()
  2. Starliner by David Drake (Baen Books)
  3. The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold (BenBella Books)
  1. The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold & Larry Niven (BenBella Books)
  2. On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington) by David Weber (Baen Books)
  3. New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean Press)
  1. Garrett Investigates by Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean Press)
  2. Dweller by Jeff Strand ()
  3. Pressure by Jeff Strand ()
  1. Monstrocity by Jeffrey Thomas (Anarchy Books)
  2. WEST OF HONOR by Jerry Pournelle ()
  3. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker (Subterranean Press)
  1. Frontera by Lewis Shiner (Subterranean Press)
  2. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (HarperCollins e-books)
  3. Five Twelfths of Heaven – Book One of the Roads of Heaven by Melissa Scott (Crossroad Press)
  1. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (P.S.) by Michael Chabon (Harper)
  2. The January Dancer by Michael Flynn (Tor Books)
  3. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
  1. Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson (Trigonier Trust)
  2. Flight of the Nighthawks (The Darkwar Saga, Book 1) by Raymond E. Feist (HarperCollins e-books)
  3. Something Wild is Loose: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Three by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean Press)
  1. To the Dark Star: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Two by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean Press)
  2. Trips: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Four by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean Press)
  3. To Be Continued: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume One by Robert Silverberg (Subterranean Press)
  1. The End Of The World edited by Martin H. Greenberg (Skyhorse Publishing)
  2. Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper (HarperCollins e-books)
  3. Caliphate by Tom Kratman (Baen Books)

The post 30 Cool eBooks You Can Grab For Less Than $3 Each appeared first on SF Signal Copyright © SF Signal

09 January 2013

Censoring Pirate Sites Doesn’t Work

Censoring Pirate Sites Doesn’t Work, Researchers Find

The file-sharing landscape has often been described as a hydra. Take one site down, and several new ones will take its place.

Blocking or censoring sites and files may have a short-lived effect, but it does very little to decrease the availability of pirated content on the Internet.

Researchers from Boston’s Northeastern University carried out a study to see how effective various anti-piracy measures are. They monitored thousands of files across several popular file-hosting services and found, among other things, that DMCA notices are a drop in the ocean.

The researchers show that file-hosting services such as Uploaded, Wupload, RapidShare and Netload disable access to many files after receiving DMCA takedown notices, but that this does little to decrease the availability of pirated content.

Similarly, the researchers find evidence that the Megaupload shutdown did little to hinder pirates. On the contrary, the file-hosting landscape became more diverse with uploaders spreading content over hundreds of services.

“There is a cat-and-mouse game between uploaders and copyright owners, where pirated content is being uploaded by the former and deleted by the latter, and where new One-Click Hosters and direct download sites are appearing while others are being shut down,” the researchers write.

“Currently, this game seems to be in favour of the many pirates who provide far more content than what the copyright owners are taking down,” they conclude.

The study also looked at the number of sites where copyrighted content is available. The researchers scraped the popular file-hosting search engine FilesTube and found that there were nearly 10,000 distinct domain names and 5,000 IP-addresses where alleged pirate content was hosted.

For example, a search for “dvdrip” returned results on 1,019 different domains using 702 distinct IP-addresses.

Availability of “pirated” media on file-hosting sites

From the above the researchers conclude that anti-piracy measures aimed at reducing the availability of pirated content are less effective than often suggested. A more fruitful approach, they argue, may be to take away their ability to process payments, through PayPal or credit card processors.

This is already happening widely, especially with file-hosting services that offer affiliate programs. However, as the researchers rightfully note there are also many perfectly legitimate file-hosting services that operate within the boundaries of the law and can’t be simply cut off.

The researchers end with the now common mantra that when it comes to online piracy, innovation often trumps legislation.

“Given our findings that highlight the difficulties of reducing the supply of pirated content, it appears to be promising to follow a complementary strategy of reducing the demand for pirated content, e.g., by providing legitimate offers that are more attractive to consumers than pirating content.”

Source: Censoring Pirate Sites Doesn’t Work, Researchers Find

08 January 2013

Demonoid coming back?

Demonoid Shows Sign of Life on New .HK Domain

After the popular BitTorrent tracker Demonoid suffered a DDoS and hacker attack July last year, the site’s servers in Ukraine were pulled offline.

Local authorities explained that Interpol asked them to take action as part of an investigation into the site’s alleged owners in Mexico.

In the months that followed the Demonoid team remained silent and the site itself showed absolutely no sign of life, simply timing out. Yesterday, however, something changed.

All of a sudden the Demonoid.me domain started to respond again. Initially it displayed a “nothing to see here” notice, and a few hours later it redirected to a new demonoid.hk domain.

The new Hong Kong domain was registered about a month ago and is currently displaying a “403 Forbidden” HTTP status code. The new site appears to be hosted in Hong Kong as well, where we saw the Demonoid tracker return earlier.

The tracker has gone up and down a few times since then and is currently offline.


While there’s absolutely no guarantee that Demonoid will return in the near future the recent developments clearly show that something is going on behind the scenes. The restart of the tracker at a new hosting company, paired with the new domain showing some response, offers hope to those who miss Demonoid dearly.

The last time TorrentFreak heard from the Demonoid admin was September last year. At the time we were told that there is “nothing interesting to report yet.”

“I hope there will be one day, but it might not be soon,” the tech admin added. Perhaps that day is coming closer now?

In many ways the current situation is reminiscent of the downtime Demonoid suffered half a decade ago. During the summer of 2007 the site shut down its servers after receiving legal threats from the CRIA. After being offline for six months the site eventually reappeared in full glory early 2008.

Time will tell whether Demonoid can make a comeback once again.

Source: Demonoid Shows Sign of Life on New .HK Domain

04 January 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy #1)

What: Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy #1)
Who: Timothy Zahn
When: Published May 1st 1992

It's five years after Return of the Jedi: the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and driven out the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi Twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights. 
But thousand of light-years away, the last of the emperor's warlords has taken command of the shattered Imperial Fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the new Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build.
The explosive confrontation that results is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale--in short, a story worthy of the name Star Wars.

This is my first Star Wars expanded universe novel and I thought it was very good. It was refreshing to revisit some of the old characters that I remember from the first Star Wars move trilogy (Luke, Leia, Han Solo & Chewie, etc.) and also see how they are evolving after those events.

I expected a quite well written book given that the author is Timothy Zahn and I wasn't disappointed. He builds on the universe and worlds that I already knew very nicely.

The action is right up there with the best and very easy to get hooked into.

Maybe this trilogy would be a good candidate for any new Star Wars movies that Disney might like to produce in the future?


Check it out at Goodreads.

03 January 2013

Aussie gun laws...interesting

Here's a news snippet from Australia which recently introduced more stringent firearms laws. I find the stats interesting to say the least.

Australian Gun Law Update

From: Ed Chenel, A police officer in Australia
Hi all, I thought you all would like to see the real figures from Down Under.
It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by our own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.
The first year results are now in:
Australia-wide, homicides are up 6.2 percent,
Australia-wide, assaults are up 9.6 percent;
Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!
In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent.(Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, so the criminals still possess their guns!)
While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since the criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.
There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the elderly, while the resident is at home.
Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in 'successfully ridding Australian society of guns....' You won't see this on the American evening news or hear your governor or members of the State Assembly disseminating this information.
The Australian experience speaks for itself. Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws affect only the law-abiding citizens.

Take note USA..!

01 January 2013

Those damn illegal downloaders - maybe not.

As a follow-on to the article I posted yesterday, here is some more food for thought from TorrentFreak about how much the fat cats of the Hollywood movie industry are 'losing' due to Internet piracy. Anyway, read on...

Pirates? Hollywood Sets $10+ Billion Box Office Record

The MPAA has made it very clear that the economy is losing billions due to piracy. Illegal downloads, they say, are slowly killing the creative industries.

While we’re not going to dispute these movie industry commissioned numbers here, it is worth pointing out that at North American box offices a new record has just been broken.

For the first time in history total ticket sales have exceeded $10.7 billion. According to the most recent numbers total revenue this year will be around $10.8 billion, with 6 percent coming from this year’s blockbuster The Avengers.

The new record was set without raising ticket prices, and even when adjusted for inflation there’s a significant bump compared to last year’s grosses. And if that’s not enough, the total number of movies premiered in 2012 also went up to a record breaking 655.

The new record follows an even more stable international trend where box office revenues have been growing for several consecutive years. Over the past decade international grosses nearly tripled from $8.1 billion in 2001 to $22.4 billion in 2011.

Keep in mind that this was the same period that online file-sharing took off.

The good news for Hollywood is that “pirates” are not all that interested in the low quality “camcorded” movie releases that are usually available during the first weeks after a movie premiere.

There aren’t many movie fans who see a camcorded version of a movie as a true alternative to watching a film in a movie theater. The two are totally different experiences, and not direct competition at all.

If anything, downloading a camcorded movie could be compared to downloading a low quality bootleg of a concert. People who download these are collectors, passionate fans, or just curious.

The suggestion that online piracy may not be all that bad for the box office is in line with two recent academic studies. The first showed that the US box office is not suffering from movie piracy at all, and another one came to the counter-intuitive conclusion that the Megaupload shutdown negatively impacted ticket sales.

But does this mean that piracy is not an issue for the movie industry at all?

Not necessarily. Most “pirates” appear to be waiting for higher quality DVD and Blu-Ray rips which are more likely to affect the DVD-aftermarket and VOD sales. These high quality pirated copies are direct competition and can impact revenues.

The challenge for the movie industry is to make legal offerings more appealing than their pirated counterparts. Of course it may not always be able to “compete with free”, but there is still a lot of ground to make up when it comes to availability and quality of legal offerings.

But overall we’d say that the movie industry is still very much alive.

Source: Pirates? Hollywood Sets $10+ Billion Box Office Record