Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are Traditional Books Dead?

Hey all, welcome back to From the Mind of Dan. Today I want to take an oppurtunity to start a look at  something that fascinates me: technology. And I don't mean how technology has changed since it was invented but how much it's changed just since the year of my birth, 1992. A lot of people think if you want to see how much technology has changed for something you have to look back to the record players of the 50's or the industrial machines of the industrial revolution up to today. In reality you can see a nice grasp on how technology has changed by just looking at 18 years or so. Before I get to the main point of todays post I want to start by discussing music.

When I was a kid there are a few distinct ways I remember listening to music. The first was on the car radio. That's a way of listening to music thats still around though it is slowly being replaced by services like Last.FM, Pandora, Spotify, and various satilite radio services. The second way is casettes. I admit that somewhere in my room I still have a casette player that (I think) still works and a handful or so of casettes that a kid would listen to when they're four, five, or six. I remeber also being able to take casettes and listen to them on the old car radio but then came a new invention, the CD.

When the year was about....2000 or so I remeber getting my first cd player.  I was 8 or 10 so I don't really remeber hearing about the hype of an ipod and what not, at the time we had just gotten a computer. Anyway a good part of my childhood was spent listening to music on CD's, though I admit I don't have a large collection of these either due to storage space needs. In 2005 or 2006 I got my first MP3 Player (I've since gotten an iPod) and that opened up a whole new world to me: digital music and being able to rip a CD and put it on this little device, take it on the go, and listen to it. There was a lot of talk that started to brew up after that point where people were starting to say that the CD format would be replaced by formats like FLAC and MP3. I think that's both true and false at the same time. On one hand you can still get CD's new at stores of modern releases, although there isn't a massive ammount of dedicated music stores around now. Most of the ones you find sell used records, CD's, and cassettes for hardcore collectors or for  those who either can't or refuse to take part in the technical revolution. In short: the MP3 player is killing the cd format. It's giving good blows left and right to it and eventually you'll see even fewer CD's in stores than you do now. That brings me  to my point of this blog:

I live in a town called EHT in Southern New Jersey.  If I want a book I basically have two local options: Atlantic Books in Somer's Point or Borders in Mays Landing, there isn't really a dedicated bookstore in EHT. True I can get books at Shop Rite or Ollies or  Sams or Wal-Mart or K-Mart or Target but that isn't the same as getting a book  at a BOOKSTORE. A  place dedicated to selling books, maybe with a few comfy chairs and the like. Now that I am out of high school I am finding myself doing a bit more reading because I am not being pushed to do so. At first I was splitting my reading between a Sharper Image Literati and actual books I would buy at Borders. I have a nice stack of unread real books I will pull  through in time, but from here on out I am going digital with all of my new reading because of a double hitter. Borders decided  to close it's doors for one reason or another so they are having their liquidation sales. That's ok, I can live with Atlantic Books in Somer's Point. But wait a second! Yesterday I was at Atlantic Books and they were even deeper into their liquidation sales. That means the only two local dedicated bookstores are gone! The closest one I currently know of is the two Atlantic Books located in Ocean City on the Boardwalk. Soon I want to head over and see if they are also closing their doors. If they are then it backs up my thoughts: the ereader and ebooks have KILLED the tradition book.

Now before you go on a tirade and say that books will never be dead, I just want to claify that traditional books are dead. Ebooks are alive and pleantiful and will be for a long time in the future. Authors will continue to crank out books. Stephen King  isn't going to cease to turn out tales of Macbre. AJ Jacobs won't give up on turning himself into a human guinea pig and most importantly celebrities (both those we love like Dick Van Dyke and Betty White and those we hate like J WOWW and Snookie) will continue to turn out life stories and tell alls. Never fear those won't cease. What will cease is the mass production of physical copies that waste trees and other resources to be made. Book production will always exist and writers will always make a buck but the means in which they do it are now digital. It's time to love and embrace devices like the Kindle, the Nook, the Literati, and the Sony Reader. What it will be interesting to see is if a company comes out with a very affordable ereader that appeals to the every day individual. The main thing that keeps people from  ereaders right now is the fact that they have to pay for books and shell out 100-200 dollars for a device. What we need is an eink reader that can be made cheaply be durable and be sold for 30 or 40 dollars so that people can adapt to the modern trend much like they did when music went digital. Look at MP3 players for a moment. Some only cost 20 or 30 dollars while others are a few hundred.

Anyway what are your  thoughts on this? Do you prefer to read a traditional book or an ebook? Do you believe that all of the bookstore closings are a sign that traditional books are going the way of cd's? What is your ereader  of choice? Sound off to these questions and leave your thoughts below and be sure to keep an eye out for an upcoming post on the advantages and disadvantages of ereading.

Until Next Time,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Internet is a Basic Human Right? Then Treat it as Such!

I was sitting around today doing some recreational reading on my iPhone when I stumbled upon an interesting article, well really a blog, from CNN that discussed the recent uprisings in various countries and the way that the various nations that were involved had leaders that limited or cut the countries internet access which led to the UN making an interesting ruling: the internet is now a basic human right. Now don't think that this post is going to be me bashing that decision because I support it. I believe that in our society now, in 2011, the internet is indeed a basic human right. When the internet was first released in the early 90's it was merely a novelty and a business tool that was afforded only by the highest class of people pulling the biggest paychecks. Over time that was reduced to households with dial up and broadband and jump a head a little further and the internet became a crucial tool for students and employees in various jobs alike. Now fast forward to 2011 and it has been upgraded to basic human right. If the internet is indeed a basic himan right, why is it not treated as such.

Here in America we have our basic human rights: electricity (that not everyone has), clean running water (that not everyone has), the internet (which not everyone has). In all honesty the water and electricity deal has a lot to do with not being able to afford bills due to the horrible job market but as long as the debt is reasonable then the companies will work with you in order to make sure you maintain that much. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) however do not work with people to make sure that they can afford their bill and in all honesty they don't act like they want to. Internet is pricey. I haven't looked at the prices  in a while but I know good internet can run you at least $60-100 a month. That's a lot for a basic human right when you pile it on electricity, car insuarances, cell phones, and cable TV or home Phone if applicable. Most people can barely afford to pay what they do now, let
alone pile in an internet bill that high. Based on the way it looks though, I am a third world citizen in a first world country.

I have electricity and running water. No cable but I have an iPhone (that I am lucky we can afford) which can NEVER serve as a replacement computer unless the internet makes major changes, but it won't. As far as an internet connection on my laptop goes though, I am forced to either head down to the local library (and work around their business hours, give up good web access on sundays, and fight for a table near  the only free laptop outlet) or scrounge around at the windows of my house, standing like an animal, trying to catch an unlocked signal. Naturally a mooched signal like that isn't going to be strong enough to view high quality videos on YouTube, upload videos anywhere, get decent speed downloads, etc. A lot of these are things that are needed for being a student (which I am, getting ready to start college) or a worker. Is that right, having to scrounge like a third world scavenger for a basic human right in the middle of America?

I'm sure I am not alone when I say this: if the UN is going to declare that the internet is a basic human right, then it is important for it to be treated as such. If you wake up and you don't have clean running water or working electricity you would have a fit and demand that someone do something. It's time the same gets done for our internet right. If it is a basic human right it is time that the United States government take the power to control it for themselves and out of the hands of the big companies like Comcast that run it now. It's time America does this for the people so that the citizens of this country have the appropriate access to the resources and services they are entitled to.

Time for me to post this from a scavengers hole,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Goodbye Harry Potter

*Spoiler Alert* The "Harry Potter" series has come to an end so I am here to review "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" and talk about the series as a whole, but I'll be honest: I'm not holding back. There will be spoilers. I'm not concerned with who knows that.  With that, if you don't want spoilers on the eighth film in the series either close your browser at this time and return when you've seen the film or close your eyes and click the back button and then read another post. Anyway, onto the regularly scheduled post.

I've lost a brother. Not a brother who was born to my mother and lived with me in my house, but a brother with a scar, born to a woman by the name of J.K. Rowling. My brother, along with many others in the world, was "The Boy Who Lived" Harry Potter. Harry got his start back in the 1990's when J.K. Rowling published a novel entitled "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". Eventually the book came to America where it was known as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". The book was a success and was followed by "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince", and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Each of the books saw a film adaptation with "Deathly Hallows" being a two part film. What followed with those films was a cultural phenomenon similar to "Lord of the Rings" brought to the screen by Peter Jackson and "Star Wars" created by George Lucas. Harry got everything: action figures, costumes, props, film soundtracks, games, candy, and video games; not to mention there's an extensive line of Harry Potter lego's along  with games based on that. All that's missing is a Harry Potter MMO where you create a character that starts at 11 years old in Hogwarts going through the classes and 7 year scheduel to then go off and get a job in the wizarding world. Actually that sounds like a good Free to Play MMO game idea. If anyone from Warner Bros. Interactive is reading this I would ask you to consider that.

To bring Harry to the big screen the perfect cast had to be chosen and throughout the run of the series amazing actors helped achieve that. Daniel Radcliffe played the title role of Harry Potter with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson playing his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermionie Granger respectivly. Dame Maggie Smith signed on to play Professor Minerva McGonagall, the professor of Trasfiguration along with being a future Headmistress of the school, while Richard Harris, known for being the vocalist behind the song "MacArthur Park" played Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts at the start of the series. Sadly, Richard Harris passed away after completion of the film "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" so he was replaced with Sir Michael Gambon who did a phenomenal job as Albus, but in my eyes Richard Harris will always be the true Dumbledore. Alan Rickman, known for doing many films including more recently "Sweeney Todd" with Johnny Depp, brought life to one of the most contriversal characters in the series: Severus Snape, the potions master at Hogwarts. His loyalties are brought up as a key plot point throughout the series with book 7 finally showing where his heart really lied. Rounding out just a few of the amazing cast members was a personal favorite of mine: Gary Oldman (Gordon in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" films, the lead terrorist in "Air Force One" and about a billion other roles) as Harry's godfather Sirius Black who gets killed by his own cousin, Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter, anoter great). Many other big stars brought life to characters but these were the ones that really touched me. To round out the notes on casting though, the series main villian Voldemort was played by the great Ralph Finnes.

Onto the 'review' of "Deathly Hallows Part 2". The film itself is very dark, both physically and in content/theme. Most of the films in the series opened on a somewhat bright note with the playing of "Hedwig's Theme" which really is the theme of the series. This one instead starts with a darker piece of music that's somber as brief flashes of the end of "Deathly Hallows Part 1" play before going to the cottage by the sea. Harry takes this time to talk to both Griphook, who turns out to be a lying little demon, and Mr. Olivander who is played by John Hurt, who originally played the role in "Sorceror's Stone". I was actually a tad surprised at how old he looks, although I doubt I should be seeing as he was in the original "Alien" movie that was made in the 1970's and he wasn't all that young then. From there Harry and friends go on their quest to locate the remaining Horcruxes that need to be destroyed in order for them to be able to ruin Lord Voldemort. The scene in the caverns under Gringott's, the Wizard Bank were well done and the dragon looked beautiful in 3D. The remainder of the film is, for the most part, the Battle of Hogwarts. Yes, they dedicate essentially an hour and a half or so to what happens in the battle at the schoool, but that's a good thing. It's a busy battle with Harry's adventure mixed in which worked as a plot style. There are moments that will definitely get to you but there are funny moments too. As in all the films Neville Longbottom is used more for laughs then anything, but he shows a brave side to him we all knew was coming. Both Mrs. Weasly and
Minerva McGonagall have lines that gained a huge laugh from the audience and a few of the deaths in the film gained applause. Overall the film was incredibly well done, the effects were stunning, the make up was great, and the sets were breath taking. Overall definitely worth seeing, and seeing in 3D if you can swing the few extra dollars.

It was the epilouge at the end that served as both the saddest point in the film, and in my opinion, the worst done point in the film. Unless I missed something, which I doubt I did, seeing as I went to the very first showing, it seems like the epilouge was trimmed down a bit, focusing on Harry and his son Albus Severus Potter, elimating many moments. References to Lilly and James, Harry and Ginny's two other children, merely showing them, but not naming them; no mention of the names of Ron & Hermionie's, Draco Malfoy and his Wife, or any other kids for that matter. The part where Lupin and Tonk's child is caught making out with Bill and Fleur's was cut and any mention of anyone's fates is cut as well. I rather enjoyed knowing Neville became a professor and that Hagrid was still on the grounds. I guess you can't have everything though. I know they reshot the epilogue so maybe on the Blu Ray release they will have the original take which, hopefully, contains those important lines. Really they aren't crucial so I can see why they were chopped but I liked them being there. If I am the only one I will shut up though.

When that epilouge rolled though, I was crying and not little tears, but crocodile tears. I was 11 when the first film came out. I feel like I made my journey with Harry and like he was a part of the family. Seeing his series come to an end makes me more than a little upset. I won't have to deal with it long as on July 31st, 2011 as soon as midnight hits I'm attempting to be one of the first million to join Pottermore. I believe that night it's open to the first  million on a first come first serve basis for a beta version and then in october the site goes live to all. Pottermore will be a new  way to re-experience the entire series of books, which will be nice. Harry can continue to grow with us a bit in new ways.

Instead of siging off with my usual line and name, I would like to close today with a line by J.K. Rowling, that I think is for all of us who grew with Harry.

"Whether by book or by film, hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." -JK Rowling

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Is Jailbreaking Dead?

Notorious iOS Hacker Comex has released the 3.0 version of  his unteathered and mobile Safari-based iOS jailbreak ( which makes jailbreaking your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad literally as  easy as installing an app from the App Store. When the jailbreak went live I made sure to get on and run it on my iPhone. It was nice having my iPhone free from Apple's controling ways again, but as I went through Cydia, the jailbreak app store, I just couldn't find anything that appealed to me. Not because I am an Apple fan boy or anything, but simply because Apple is fixing the issues with it's mobile OS.

The first time I ever jailbroke a device was back when I had my iPod Touch (first generation) running one of the 3.x.x firmwares. I jailbroke the little thing mainly because I wanted to be able to do the following: add a background to my home screen, make folders to organize things, and really just make a few  minor cosmetic changes like fonts and stuff (but those I could easily live without). Eventually my iPod touch died and I was stuck with just my 160 GB Classic for music and an old Virgin Mobile phone. One day my dad decided that it would be fun to get me an iPhone, so I wound up with a 3GS, which despite having fewer cameras and a lower resolution than the 4 is still a very nice phone. Somewhere in the land of iOS 4.x.x I decided to jailbreak again, when JailbreakMe 2.0 was out, I even advocated it in a short lived iPhone produced show called Dan's Realm. The jailbreak was nice because I was able to tether for a little while (though I gave up when I saw the amount of data it was consuming). Nothing else in the Cydia store really appealed to me though, seeing as Apple gave me home screen backgrounds and folders. I restored my phone and tried to jailbreak one more time on iOS 4.3.2 but  that was an awful experience so I gave up on jailbreaking.

Then JailbreakMe 3.0 came out and I just had to try it one last time. The only apps I found really worth installing were BiteSMS (which I couldn't even get to run on the latest firmware) and LockInfo. Neither of these really hit close to home either though, as the notification center is on it's way in iOS 5. If Steve Jobs could just turn around now and let us install custom made text  messaging tones I  think that jailbreaking the iPhone would truly be dead.

I don't know about you, but personally I believe that the iOS jailbreak is nearing a point where it will be useless seeing as Apple is finally hearing our pleas. As they see what the jailbreak community is doing to modify the OS it appears that they are following suit by putting a team of Apple Geniuses together to work on assembling the new features to launch. I'm an iPhone user and I plan to be as long as I can afford to, but I know longer see the need to jailbreak a device.

What are your thoughts on this? Is jailbreaking dead? Do you think that jailbreaking is still a technological process that is needed for an iPhone? Sound off in the comments below.

Until next time,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

RIP Jim Morrison

No major post for today or the next few days as my 4th of July festivities begin tomorrow. Just wanted to take a moment and say Happy 4th of July to everyone here in America and RiP Jim Morrison, he's been gone for about 40 years yet he still is able to impact artists and individuals. We miss you.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

"My Two Dads" are "Two and a Half Men"

Last week while I was out picking up some new DVDs to watch for the week my mom stumbled upon two DVDs for $1.99 each at Target. One was "ThirtySomething" which was a drama in the eighties or nineties. It's never been a show that appealed to me, but I decided to borrow the other DVD and give it a watch through which is "My Two Dads", a TV sitcom that aired in 1987 and stars Paul Reiser (of "Mad About You" and "Aliens" fame) along with Greg Evigan as two former friends who had a falling out in college over a girl who had slept with (and loved) both of them. The woman passes  away and the  show begins with the reading of her will, where she leaves each men fifty percent of her estate. Her estate, as it turns out, is her twelve year old daughter, Nicole. At first the two men, Michael and Joey, are reluctant to raise the young girl, but in the end decide to put their differences aside, move in together, and decide to raise the child. To add a little comedy to the situation, the judge in charge of the child's case is also the landlord of the building where the men live with their daughter. Other stars of the show include Staci Keanan as Nicole and Florence Stanley as the Judge, along with football great Dick Butkus.

The series itself works. Being  released in the 80's despite running for only three seasons it can be looked at as one of the sitcom greats, though it was beat out by a bigger monster "Full House". The show was able to catch the eye of some audiences...or at least enough to warrent DVD releases. It was a name in the credits though that really caught my eye. Chuck Lorre. I'm pretty sure that name is clicking with a lot of you right now. Chuck Lorre is the creative force behind "Two and a Half Men" which up until the upcoming season starred Charlie Sheen. Twenty years prior to creating "Two and a Half Men" Lorre worked  as a story writer on at least 12 episodes of "My Two Dads" which almost shows up with the premise of "Men". Think about it, two guys live together raising a child. One is a rule abiding good guy and one is a partying womanizer. Sure nobody had to die to move the plot of "Men" but you still can't deny the similiarities.

What do you think of these two shows? Sound off below.


Friday, July 1, 2011

World of Warcraft: Starter Edition - Not As Good As it Gets

Yesterday I reported that Blizzard Games dropped the ten and fourteen day trials of their 7 year hit "World of Warcraft" and replaced them with a Level Capped free trial where you could play the game absolutly free until level 20. As with most too good to be true things this is. I'm not gonna sit here and give you a full review of the game seeing as it's been around more than long enough that there are more than a billion reviews on the game. Instead I am here to talk with you about the the Started Edition of the game, ie the trial.

The worst part of this trial is that there are limits to the game. I don't mind a level cap of 20, that isn't bad. But here are a few other limits on the Starter Edition directly from the WoW support site.

*A level cap of 20.
*A maximum of 10 gold.
*Trade skills are capped at 100 ranks.
*Unable to trade via the Auction House, mailbox, or player-to-player.
*In-game access to public chat channels unavailable. Players are limited to communicating using only say, party, or whisper.
*Characters will be unable to create or join guilds.
*Characters are not able to send whispers to other characters unless they have been added to the characters’ friends lists or have received a whisper from a character first.
*Characters will not be able to invite other players into a party.
*Characters will not be able to join parties with other characters above level 20.
*Voice chat disabled on Starter Edition accounts.
*Realms experiencing login queues will prioritize players who have full, paid accounts.
*Starter Edition accounts are not eligible for character transfers.
*RealID features are disabled on all Starter Edition Accounts.

At first glance these don't really seem to be a big deal but when you put the all togehter it really hinders a bit of the game experience, stripping you of what the full game is like. The marketing on this made it seem like it would be the full version of the game capped to level 20. In the end all of the Limitations don't make for a true experience, although I honestly can't compare it to the previous trial versions. The game itself I didn't see what the big deal with it is. It didn't fully captivate me. I might fire it up one more time to give it a second shot but it just didn't pull me in. I believe that this trial actually backed up the internet belief that World of Warcraft is dying and in my eyes, this was just another nail in the coffin. If you like WoW, more power to ya. I say go for the subscription one here, and it's rare for me to say pay for a game monthly. I'm more concerned with what the new World of Warcraft by some upcoming developer will be.

Until Next time,