Finally got my Lumia Denim update. Not at all very impressed. Actually I am rather pissed off!

Yesterday the Denim update finally popped up on my Lumia 925. As usual with phone updates I installed it pretty much right away. I cannot say that there was an enormous amount of features in it that I was waiting for. At last not that I knew of from reading about the update. Quite honestly the only thing that I was looking forward to was the ability to finally set quiet hours, a feature that it is frankly a disgrace that Microsoft have not provided until now.

Well, I have to say that I am not enormously impressed. Actually I am quite a bit disappointed. The first thing that happened is that I ran into a huge snag. A snag that is occurring all too often tanks to both ignorant and arrogant developers and decision makers at American companies that cannot get into their thick heads that the world might actually work differently outside of the US.

Despite the wet dreams of some deluded EU-politicians Europe is not one country. It is many and people move around between them. I am a Swedish citizen, I live in France, I work in Switzerland and my preferred language is English. Thus I have my phone’s region set to France to get the proper content but my display language set to English.

After having installed the update the first thing that happened was of course that I had to get into Cortana. Not because I really wanted but, for some illogical and stupid reason, in order to use quiet hours you have to have Cortana enabled. Cortana have yet another language setting. Why is beyond me but it has. However, I could not enable Cortana because it complained that my Cortana language and my display language was not the same. Why the hell have separate settings if they have to be the same anyway? Worse, I had already set them to the same setting!

After some messing around I found out that, not only do you have to have the Cortana language and display language set to the same value but you also have to have the region set to match the language. What the fuck Microsoft?! That is the dumbest piece of shit I have seen in a long time. It is also a major inconvenience at best. First I have to use Cortana, which I really do not care for at all, to use a setting that should be a standard setting on my phone and then I cannot use it because some totally dumbass restriction on region and language. This is just ignorance and arrogance from people that thinks that the world is centered around themselves.

Okay, once I got over my utter surprise, frustration and outright rage over this huge screw-up I started to look around to see if I could spot anything actually worthwhile with this update. I have to admit that I have not been playing around with it for very long but so far I have not really found much of interest. I fail to see why many people seems to be somewhat hyped up about it. One major change for me is that the update blocked Here Maps. Here Maps will no longer start but just sits there loading.

So Microsoft, I still like Windows Phone in general but really, thanks for screwing Here Maps and for nothing else really!

Dead Beat – Another good Dresden book

Dead Beat (The Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Dead BeatThere’s an entire world that exists alongside the everyday life of mankind. There are powers, nations, monsters, wars, feuds, alliances – everything. Wizards are part of it. So are a lot of other things you’ve heard about in stories, and even more you’ve never heard of…Vampires. Werewolves. Faeries. Demons. Monsters. It’s all real.

Harry Dresden knows full well that such creatures exist. Paranormal investigations are his stock-in-trade, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world that exists on the edges of imagination. Luckily Harry’s not alone in this struggle. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don’t believe in magic, there’s a department that’s been set up within the Chicago PD to deal with “strange” cases: the Special Investigations department.

Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and a good friend of Harry’s. So when a deadly vampire threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry helps her, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler and all the power that comes with it – but first Harry has to determine what the Word of Kemmler is. Now Harry is in a race against time – and six necromancers – to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead.

Yet again Harry is called on to save a good chunk of the world from things that go bump in the night. Since a couple of books back, when Harry managed to grow himself some balls, I have taken quite a liking to this book series. Harry have become quite a badass and I like his sharp tongue and rather dry and dark comments. Unfortunately he is not not always as a sharp-witted as he his sharp-tongued and he does indeed put his foot in it and, in particular, gets sucker-punched a wee bit too often.

The book starts with Harry getting forced (suckered) into looking for the, apparently, famous Word of Kemmler. Well, famous in certain circles that is. Circles that have a rather unhealthy interest in dead things. Dead things that won’t stay nice and quiet in their coffins like well-behaved dead things should do. To everyone’s great surprise (not really) a number of other interested parties are also looking for the Word of Kemmler. Parties that believe in simple solutions when it comes to competition, like a not so healthy dose of violence followed by sudden death(s). What can be better in order to promote some violence than help an already brewing war take off in earnest. So soon Harry finds himself in the middle of another fine mess…again.

As usual the book is nicely written with plenty of action, lots of bickering between Harry and his friends and all kinds of magic and supernatural beings crawling, stomping or flying around. Although Harry gets sucker-punched a couple of times he does bounce back and this time he is doing it in style venturing into some rather black magic as well as bending the rules of the White Council in some rather innovative ways. Too bad Harry could not replace that old crappy Beetle of his with his new “ride” permanently. Yes that is very cryptic but writing anything more specific would be a mega-spoiler for what I personally think is one of the best moments of the book so you have to read it for yourself.

The one thing that I really did not like was Morgan’s behavior. Not that this was much of a surprise since he must be one of the most disagreeable and thickheaded bastards in this book series. I disliked him even more than usual in this book though when he got one of his outbursts in the middle of some critical events. Even afterwards, when he had soundly been proven wrong, he behaves like an arse.

Anyway, on the whole a very enjoyable book.

Maze Runner – Quite enjoyable “young adult” movie

Maze Runner by Wes Ball on Blu-ray
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Maze RunnerThomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in “The Glade” for three years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space. They have begun to give up hope. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change. There are some great, fast-paced action scenes, particularly those involving the nightmarish Grievers who plague the boys.

One thing that I liked about this movie from the start was that it was, in my limited experience at least, somewhat original. Yes it was an apocalypse story but I have really not seen anything quite like it before. Yes moving mazes and all that have been done but the story as a whole was new to me. That was refreshingly enjoyable in this age of more or less boring Hollywood remakes.

On the whole I quite enjoyed the movie. I would label it a “young adult” movie. Not only because the lead characters as well as almost the entire cast are teenagers but the story itself is clearly at a level directed towards a younger audience. But then, who do not wish they were young again? I quite liked the story. It clearly had its usual collection of illogical moments and plot holes but nothing really really annoying as far as I am concerned.

In my opinion all of the cast did a decent enough job of their roles. Some roles mostly consisted of standing around in the background of course but the lead characters was not bad. Teresa was more of a plot element than a lead character in this movie though that has to be said.

I did indeed like the maze itself. It had a quite cool look and was well done from a cinematic point of view. The one thing that did not come out in the movie though was the reason for it all. I know that is supposed to be the mystery but it was rather frustrating nonetheless to not get any clues whatsoever. What on Earth could be the purpose of having a bunch of kids live through this experience in that way?

Sometimes the behavior of these kids where somewhat annoying of course. I especially disliked the plot element where that dumbass kid seemed to just want everything to stay the same forever. It is of course a classical element in stories like this but it still annoys the hell out of me every time.

Bottom line is still that I found this a rather enjoyable movie. I would definitely want to see the other two books made into movies as well. I have not read the books by the way so me thinking this was a new story experience is of course partly due to this fact.

Rage (aka Tokarev) – Mildly interesting movie with a lousy ending

Rage (aka Tokarev) by Paco Cabekas on Blu-ray
My rating: 5 out of 10 stars

RageThe reformed criminal Paul Maguire is a businessman in the construction business and happily married with Vanessa Maguire. His sixteen year-old daughter Caitlin Maguire is his pride and joy. One night, Paul and Vanessa go to a dinner party and leave Caitlin with her friends Mike and Evan at home. During the night, his dinner is interrupted by Detective Peter St. John that tells that Caitlin had been kidnapped and her friends are wounded. Paul learns that three criminals had invaded his house and abducted his daughter. Paul meets his friends and former crew, Kane and Danny Doherty, and they unsuccessfully press the smalltime criminals expecting to have news from Caitlin. Soon she is found dead in a park and they see the result of the ballistics indicating that a Russian Tokarev pistol killed Caitlin. Now Paul is haunted by his past and believes that the Russians are seeking revenge. Paul, Kane and Danny start a war against the Russians but no mobster knows any connection of the Russian…

I was hoping for some good old classic criminals-messing-with-the-wrong-guy rather violent action movie when I sat down to watch this one. I was indeed expecting it to be a B-movie but being a B-movie does not necessarily make it a bad movie. Well I was right about it being a B-movie and it was indeed rather violent but for the rest it did not turn out to be exactly what I hoped for.

Paul and his buddies does indeed start to crack down on the less desirable elements of society. This they do using the well-known strategy of applying a healthy dose of violence and if that does not work then you use more violence. In general the movie starts off fairly well but as we ride along it starts to degenerate into silly outbreaks of rage. I know the movie is called Rage (as well as Tokarev) but I was expecting the rage to be directed towards the bad guys and not just senseless shouting into the air. The further we go the more it degenerates. There is the classical cops-who-intervene-and-let-the-bad-guys-get-away stuff. Very annoying. The stupid screw-up of Danny and Paul’s way of handling it was also a bit of a downer.

Still, the movie was not all that bad until we reached the end. Well, the end does have a twist to it that has to be said. It also had to be said that I did not like it at all. Even if I could have gotten over the twist itself, the actions of Paul afterwards and the final scenes really sunk the movie for me.

Nicolas Cage did not do a bad performance but, as far as I am concerned, he was given a less than stellar script to work with. Technically I would say that this was on the upper half of the scale for B-movies but the story, especially the ending, was not my cup of tea.

Hammerhead: Resurrection – Fairly average dumbass politicians vs real figthing men vs big bad aliens story

Hammerhead: Resurrection (Hammerhead #2) by Jason Andrew Bond
My rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Hammerhead Resurrection“An advanced extraterrestrial race must, as humans have, evolve into a peaceful society.”
-From Senate Majority Leader Sebastian Flynn’s commencement speech at MIT

“Fifty years later we’re still debating this? An obsolete military desperate to justify itself fabricated that war.”
-President John Moore two weeks before the destruction of Europa Base

“Those veterans suffer only from memory implants. They’re a senseless burden.”
-Excerpt from Vice President Samantha Creswell’s California campaign debate

“Please forgive us for what we’ve allowed to happen.”
-Note found in the rubble of the Oval Office

“We won’t make the same mistake they did… They left some of us alive.”
-Fleet Admiral Jeffrey Holt

It was quite some time since I read the first Hammerhead book by Jason Andrew Bond and I have to admit that I have forgotten quite a lot of the finer details. Regardless of this though I would say that this is a rather different book than its predecessor. The original Hammerhead book was quite earthbound and more of a conspiracy thriller with some science fiction elements. This one is a fairly pure alien invasion story and even though it is rather earthbound as well it at least starts off in space.

I have to admit that I was somewhat hesitant and had to convince myself to actually start reading this book after having read the book blurb. Most of the citations in the blurb seems to indicate the involvement of way too many dumbass politicians for my taste and true enough that was also the case. A good part of the beginning of the book is filled with the same type of ignorant and arrogant assholes with egos overinflated by their own bullshit that we have way too many of in real life. Needless to say said dumbasses play a key part in things going from bad to worse rather rapidly at the beginning of the book.

I felt I had a bit of difficulty getting into the book. Maybe it was just because I remembered less than I usually do of the previous installment but I did get the feeling that the book was jumping around a lot before it started to get any clear direction. Once past the first couple of chapters it got better though. Unfortunately a good chunk of the book was still rather frustrating since it was fairly clear to everyone except previously mentioned dumbass politicians, a few equally stupid scientists and overconfident military officers that it was clobbertime and Earth was not on the side doing the clobbering.

Unfortunately, even though the book starts out nice enough with all the action taking place in space, the way the story plays out our heroes are soon finding themselves knocked back to Earth and the rest of the book is more of a traditional Earth bound survive-the-alien-invasion type of story. At this point I do indeed have some issues with the story. I already thought the way the Alien fleet behaved during the retreat back to Earth was somewhat illogical but once down on Earth their behavior just makes no sense to me. Our heroes are basically allowed to fly around back and forth gathering the necessary material, including scores of military aircrafts, without the aliens paying any attention to them. I found that implausible to say the least. Sure they suffer one or two setbacks when the aliens more or less stumble over them but there appears to be no coordinated effort from the aliens to maintain any real control and security.

There are really not that many surprises in the book. Apart from an incredibly frustrating attempt by a intellectually handicapped military officer to screw things up everything plays out more or less as expected. I assume that the author wanted to create some additional chock value with the apparent reason for the invasion but for me it felt like it had just been slapped in like a cool, oh-let’s-do-that thing rather than being thought through. Again, the way the aliens went about things did not feel very logical.

In general I felt that the book was technically well written with good characters and a well told story but the story itself was less than stellar and lacking quite a bit in the logic department. Altogether I felt this was a fairly average book. Not bad but nothing to write home about either.

Imperfect Sword – Solid continuation of The Lost Stars series.

Imperfect Sword (The Lost Stars #3) by Jack Campbell
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Imperfect SwordPresident Gwen Iceni and General Artur Drakon have successfully liberated the Midway Star System—but the former rulers of the Syndicate Worlds won’t surrender the region without a fight. The dictatorial regime has ordered the ex–Syndicate CEOs terminated with extreme prejudice and the system’s citizens punished for their defiance.

Outnumbered and led by junior officers hastily promoted in the wake of the uprising, Midway’s warships are no match for the fleet massing and preparing to strike. But the Syndicate isn’t the only threat facing Iceni and Drakon. Another former CEO has taken control of the Ulindi Star System, the first calculated move toward establishing his own little empire.

With Drakon’s ground forces dispatched to Ulindi, Midway erupts in violence as Syndicate agents and other, unknown enemies stoke a renewed revolt against Iceni’s power—leaving both her and Drakon vulnerable to trusted officers just waiting for an opportune moment to betray them…

This book do not really surprise. It is a solid continuation of The lost Stars series continuing the story of Midway’s struggles trying to build a somewhat more humane and democratic society than the Syndicate as well as keep their hard fought for independence.

The book is well written in the usual way of Jack Campbell and it is definitely an enjoyable read. The book jumps rather quickly into quite a bit of action with a Syndicate attack on Midway led buy a fanatical Syndicate CEO. I do not think it is too much of a spoiler when I write that Midway’s forces manages to drive away the attack. We can hardly have Midway fall right at the beginning of the book can we.

After that the book slows down a bit when it goes into a lot of character interactions, politics and so on which finally evolves into the Ulindi operation. An operation which, not surprisingly, is not going exactly as planned. This of course leads to quite a lot of action which is well done as usual. Both the space action and ground action is quite realistic and good reading.

Overall the book is well done with a thought out story, depth in the characters and enjoyable action. The one thing I have against the book is the constant positioning, manipulation, backstabbing and general atmosphere of mistrust. For me it puts a dampener on the fun of reading it and creates quite a bit of negative feelings. Politics have never been my cup of tea in books. At the same time it is somewhat interesting to follow Iceni and Drakon when they try to adopt themselves as well as Midway to a less dictatorial community.

A good solid book that looses a star for the depressing political atmosphere. The latter a highly personal view of course.

Left Behind – Already mediocre movie ruined by a load of religious nonsense!

Left BehindLeft Behind by Vic Armstrong on Blu-ray
My rating: 2 out of 10 stars

The most important event in the history of mankind is happening right now. In the blink of an eye, the biblical Rapture strikes the world. Millions of people disappear without a trace. All that remains are their clothes and belongings, and in an instant, terror and chaos spread around the world. The vanishings cause unmanned vehicles to crash and burn. Planes fall from the sky. Emergency forces everywhere are devastated. Gridlock, riots and looting overrun the cities. There is no one to help or provide answers. In a moment, the entire planet is plunged into darkness.

I have to confess that I bought this movie a bit on a whim and my purchase decision was mostly based on the fact that Nicolas Cage was in it. That was a mistake! I should have done a wee bit more research before wasting my money. I did not really have any hopes that it would be a great movie but I at least hoped that it would be a somewhat decent disaster / apocalypse movie. Sadly, it is nothing of the kind.

This time I have to side with the people trashing this movie, even the so called “critics” at Rotten Tomatoes. This is a bad movie. It could have been a half decent movie. The basic idea is perhaps not super original but it could have been made to work. However, it is simply loaded with religious bullshit. Once you filter out said bullshit, which is bloody difficult since you are more or less force fed it during most of the movie, there is really nothing left.

The behavior of people are bizarre to say the least. The dialogue is mostly nonsensical. The movies attempt at putting different and original characters, including an obnoxious dwarf, on the plane is feeble. The action and special effects are generally lousy and the attempts to put some thrill and drama into the landing of the plane is laughable. Come on, you see a plane coming, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it has no pilot and is flying in a straight line. You are over the Atlantic, a minor course change would have done the job and there was plenty of time. But nooo, the idiot script writer had Cage fly in a straight line like a chicken race until it was too late. And do not get me started on the stupidity of having someone driving down a stretch of highway in a pickup truck knocking over plastic cones to “clear it for landing”.

The only reason this movie gets any stars at all is because I do like Nicolas Cage even in a lousy movie like this.

My personal ramblings about books (especially Sci-Fi), computers, gadgets and movies

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