Proven Guilty – Another fix for the Dresden addicts.

Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8) by Jim Butcher
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Proven GuiltyHarry Dresden is the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. He consults from the police department on those so-called “unusual” cases. He’s even been on talk shows. So there’s no love lost between Harry and the White Council of Wizards, who find him a little brash and undisciplined. But now war with the vampires has thinned the ranks of wizards, and the White Council needs Harry, like it or not. He’s drafted as a Warden, and assigned to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City.

And if that wasn’t enough, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend was the only one in a room where an old man was attacked, but in spite of this, he insists he didn’t do it. What looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film turns out to be…well, something quite close to that, as Harry discovers that malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago. All in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

The Dresden story continues in this, the 8th book in the series. It is pretty much another fix for the Dresden addicts. Harry continues as usual which means that he puts his foot in a whole heap of trouble. Well he did have quite a bit of help in aiming that foot of his that has to be said. There seems to be a number of constant factors when Harry embarks on pretty much anything and they can fairly well be summed up by “shit happens”.

Of course Harry finds himself in a lot deeper water than he expected and as usual some unexpected help arrives when his day is about to go from bad to worse. Actually, his day had already passed to the worse stage and was going downhill from there. What begun as a simple (hey everything is relative you know) investigation into a supernatural phenomenon at a geek convention, you know the usual stuff with some violent supernatural everyday mayhem, quickly turned into a rescue operation deep into bad guy land involving the wife and daughter of Harry’s best friend, who also happens to be a holy knight with a big bad guy chopping sword. Complicated? Well actually, as Harry is about to find out eventually, it is actually more complicated than that. Harry is being played and not just him.

The red thread of the White Council and their war with the vampires continues through this book as well and as usual they, or at least one member of the council, are the same assholes as always which in this case will have severe consequences for Harry’s friends. I am happy to note that Harry is not a pushover this time though.

Of course the book is laced with the usual cheeky dialogue and personal observations that we have come to be used to from this book series. At one point in time I have to say that it did feel a bit “more of the same” and I wondered if I was actually getting a bit tired of these books but that feeling quickly passed. After the first couple of books where Harry grew himself some balls these books are really good reading. The writing is good, I like the characters and there is not too much nonsense getting in the way and distracting from the actual investigations and the action.

I will not go as far as a full set of stars but it is definitely a read worthy and above average book.

Fury – I cannot say that I liked this movie very much.

Fury by David Ayer on Blu-ray
My rating: 4 out of 10 stars

FuryApril, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened Army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered, and out-gunned, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

I knew that quite a few people had complained about the realism in this movie even though it hold high ratings on most movie sites. I was hoping that the complaints were mostly nitpicking like wrong model of Sherman tank and such like. Well, I am afraid that it was a bit more than that. I would say that this movie is clearly written by some Hollywood writer sitting in his comfy chair and never ever having been close to any military activities, not to mention live action, in his life.

I can live with a movie being inaccurate or somewhat unrealistic if the rest of the movie is good but I have to say that I did not really like the movie even after trying to filter out the unrealistic nonsense.

The movie is very dark and gritty and there are really no likeable characters in it whatsoever. Well, the clerk that got thrown in as a tank machinegun gunner was perhaps somewhat likable but then him getting assigned as a tank machinegun gunner in the first place was one of those nonsensical bits. In this movie the “heroes” are not really any better than the Nazis. The scene where “Wardaddy” forces previously mentioned clerk to shoot an unarmed POW is just disgusting. I am sure this is not too far from reality in some cases during the war but I’ll be damned if I am watching a movie to be entertained by it.

Having said that I must also say that the movie was very well done in terms of acting and cinematography with one exception. The ridiculous overuse of tracer bullet effects. Tracer bullets do not look like you are in a Star Wars movie and yes I have been using tracer bullets during my military service, obviously unlike the producer and consultants (if they had any) of this movie.

The pacing of the movie was somewhat uneven. Some of it was fairly fast paced but then some parts, like the part in the apartment of the two German women was quite slow and somewhat dull.

The “last stand” at the end was just silly and nonsensical. It started pretty much right away when the poor clerk spots the arriving German infantry just using his eyes. Then it just takes forever until they actually arrive so our “heroes” have all the time in the world to prepare. There would of course be no way for a lone Sherman to hold off an assault like that and the Germans would of course not be charging around shooting useless fine caliber weaponry against said Sherman. Also when they had all this time to prepare why the f… did they leave some of the ammo outside the tank? Obviously because some dumb scriptwriter thought it would make for a good scene. And do not get me started on the fact that the Germans apparently just stops in their tracks every time the director thinks it is time for some slow scene inside the tank.

The ending? Well I do not like bad endings and this one certainly did not give me any feeling of reward for having suffered through over two hours of this movie. Needless to say I am a tad disappointed.

Deezer Elite service, what are they thinking?

Deezer Elite 2A few days ago Deezer launched their Elite service in Europe. On the surface it sounds great. For an additional subscription fee you get lossless 1411 kbps FLAC instead of the 320 kbps MP3 you get with the standard service. At least I would be quite interested in this. Especially when syncing music to various devices with the Deezer app. However, in reality, the service is pretty useless. At least to me.

The show stopper is that you cannot get this quality on any of the ordinary Deezer apps. You have to buy Sonos hardware as well. I know that this is the case in the US where the service was first introduced but I kind of hoped that this was some kind of special commercial deal for the US market and that they would not do something as stupid as that in Europe. Sadly they did.

I just cannot grasp what they are thinking? I know a fair number of people, including myself, who would be very interested in a real HD service from Deezer but not if it means investing in special gear. I have perfectly good gear already and there is no way I put more stuff in there just because some clueless bean counter at Deezer though it would be a good deal to tie their service to some hardware manufacturer.

I tried to post a question on their blog whether or not this service would eventually be available without the Sonos requirement but either they simply cannot be bothered to maintain their site properly or they are deliberately trying to sweep unpleasant questions under the carpet because my comment have been sitting as “Waiting moderation” for several days now.

Well, too bad for you Deezer, you are not getting my subscription money and I just stick to CD’s for my higher quality listening for a while more.

Mockingjay Part 1 – Overhyped mediocrity.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 by Francis Lawrence on Blu-ray
My rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Mockingjay Part 1With the Games destroyed, Katniss Everdeen, along with Gale, Finnick and Beetee, end up in the so thought “destroyed” District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her friends, Katniss becomes the “Mockingjay”, the symbol of rebellion for the districts of Panem.

This is the third movie in the Hunger Games series. I better state right away that I have not read the books so I do not know how good the books are or if the movies actually follow the book. However, if the movies are any indicator then I will probably not bother to read the books. So far these movies have been a display in overhyped mediocrity as far as I am concerned.

The previous movies had a somewhat ludicrous setup with people running around in ridiculous hair-do and makeup. I was not too thrilled about it but at least it gave the movie some originality. So did the games themselves. This one lacks all of that. It could be any one of a dozen post-apocalyptic stories.

The movie plods along at a fairly leisurely pace, sometimes it is quite dull and slow, with some outbursts of action. Katniss herself is really not taking much active part except for being a front figure and propaganda element for the rebellion. In order to milk the series as much as possible for money (I see no other reason why it was done) it was decided to break the third book into two movies. I would say that this movie is a good example as to why that is generally not a good idea.

The acting is on par with the movie. It is decent enough but nothing to write home about. Then since most of the movie really is about Katniss hulking and moaning about the unfairness of it all it is maybe not too surprising that I found most of it somewhat uninspired and dull. The same can be said about the special effects. Actually I found most of them to be rather underwhelming. There were also a fair amount of lost moments. For instance the attack on the dam. It could have been made into something nice but instead we get a ludicrous display of a bunch of unarmed people running straight against machine guns planting some bombs and then poof goes a model dam.

Having now seen three out of the planned four movies I am of course going to see the fourth one as well but I am definitely not going to be in a rush to go and see it.

The Best Laid Plans – I do not really like the direction this book took.

The Best Laid Plans (Bookworm #3) by Christopher Nuttall
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Bookworm IIIElaine and Johan are preparing to leave Golden City, with Daria and the travellers, in order to search for the Witch-King. The Grand Sorceress instructs Inquisitor Cass to help them. But before Elaine can leave she is arrested by two Inquisitors on the orders of the Emperor. When she resists she is hit with a powerful spell that forces her to concentrate all her efforts on protecting her mind from its intrusion. Taken to the palace she finds that the Grand Sorceress has been removed and the Throne has accepted an heir to the Empire. Realising this has to be the work of the Witch-King, Elaine must defeat the spell that is eating away at her defences if she is to escape and destroy him. Meanwhile, Johan, Daria and Cass are trying to find a way to get to Elaine and break her out of the cell in which she is being held.

The Golden City is still widely devastated from the disastrous battle for power that followed the death of the previous Grand Sorcerer. The recent escalating breakdown of social order can only be made worse by the return of an Emperor and the imposition of martial law. The Privy Councillors and Heads of the Great Houses succumb to the power of the new Emperor, as he amasses a huge army. It is up to Elaine and her friends, with some unexpected help, to prevent an all-out war.

Christopher Nuttall have a habit of bringing down the worlds that he builds up. Usually with equal measures of chaos and mayhem. I did not expect him to do it with the Bookworm universe though. Unfortunately I have to say that I do not like the direction this book took. Now, do not misunderstand me. This is a good book. I just do not like the path the story took.

Elaine is back, obviously, and the story continues more or less where the previous book left off with Lady Spinner as the new Grand Sorceress. Then all goes to hell more or less right away when the new Emperor shows up and ascends to power. Needless to say the new Emperor is not one of the nice fellows.

From there on most of the book focuses on Elaine and her friends escaping the clutches of the emperor. Death and mayhem accompanies the new Emperor’s regime and there are a few losses and victims, not all of them mortal, during our friends journey that did indeed sadden me.

Mr. Nuttall also pits magic against science in this book. He even goes as far as to question the future of magic in this world. This is parts that I am not really very thrilled about. I was quite happy that this book series had its foots fairly solidly planted in a magic fantasy land. It made it nicely different from other book series from Mr. Nuttall. Maybe this is why I am not too thrilled with the turn of events.

Having said all the above, this is a good book. It is very very far from being a bad book. As usual Mr. Nuttall is very good at his world building, or in this case maybe I should say destruction instead of building. The characters are well done and on the whole it is a very good adventure story. My gripes with this particular book are quite subjective to my tastes and expectations of course.

The book ends pretty much in the middle of the particular story arc that it started. It is not really a cliffhanger ending but it has less of a satisfying conclusion than the previous books. Obviously that also means that the stage is set for the next chapter of the adventure. I for certain hope that a fourth book will be written. One where Elaine and her friends strikes back, preferably without bringing down the rest of this magical world.

Microsoft’s search indexer ate my hard drive!

Computer Blow UpRecently I was starting to get low on space on the boot drive of my desktop PC. The boot drive is a 128 Gb SDD so there is not that much space on it. Most of my stuff is kept on my second drive which is a 2 Tb traditional disk drive. Unfortunately there are some stuff, especially with Windows 8 that you do not seem to be able to move from the C: drive. As usual someone have not thought beyond their own little cubicle at Microsoft. Then there are of course stuff you want to have on the SDD drive for speed reasons.

Anyway, when my Pulseway monitoring (that is quite a nice and useful tool by the way) repeatedly told me that I was below 20% capacity on the drive and after I had removed (or so I thought) as much as possible from it I decided to enable drive compression. The drive contains mostly binaries so it would not give me an enormous amount of course but it was good enough. I got a bit more than 10 Gb more space which is perhaps a 15% improvement.

However, the next day I got another Pulseway alert stating that my boot drive was full. What the f…? Obviously all kind of bad things happened when the drive was almost full. My file history started to moan that I had to reselect my file history volume for example. Why is beyond me since it was on another drive with lots of space. I went about and tried to free up some more space but the free space started to get chewed up as I watched.

What was worse was that when I summed up the space used it did not match what appeared to be really used, even though I have the system set to show me hidden and system files. Finally I found some advice from people who had similar experiences which enabled me to resolve the problem.

It turned out that the search indexer had simply gone amok. Unfortunately some genius at Microsoft had decided that the files used by the search indexer would not show up, even with hidden and system files turned on, until you actually went to the folder (provided you knew where it was) and specifically told the system to show them. It turned out that it had gobbled up about 40Gb of a 128 Gb drive! That is just insane!

Search Index LocationLuckily it is easy enough to relocate the indexers data files to another drive from the control panel so I quickly moved it to my second drive and suddenly I had plenty of space on the drive again. However it is really shoddy programming that the indexer can be allowed to grind the system to a halt by absorbing all the free space on the boot drive. Even if it went amok with the indexing it should not have been allowed to consume that much. There should have been some safety that stopped it when some percentage of the drive was left. Someone less at ease with poking around with a computer’s settings would have been thoroughly screwed.

Mutineer – I liked it more than I thought I would do.

Mutineer (Alexis Carew #2) by J.A. Sutherland
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars

MutineerJust as Midshipman Alexis Carew thinks she’s found a place in the Royal Navy, she’s transferred aboard H.M.S. Hermione. Her captain is a tartar, liberal with the cat, who thinks girls have no place aboard ship. The other midshipmen in the berth are no better. The only advice she’s offered is to keep her head down and mouth shut – things Alexis is rarely able to do.

I have been putting off reading this book, the sequel to Into The Dark, for a while since I was not too thrilled with the idea of this women hater captain. I have been afraid that it would just frustrate me enough to utterly dislike the book. I was of course no too thrilled with this nonsensical age of sail kind of “science” in the first book either.

I have to say though that I did indeed like this book more than I thought I would. Yes the captain is a first class asshole in capital letters. Not only is he a woman hating asshole but he is a coward and an utter idiot. He is so absurdly incompetent that it is utterly incomprehensible that he could have made captain at all. However, without giving too many spoilers, he is not exactly present for a good chunk of the book which makes the story more bearable. He also does get his due spanking at the end.

That the book was more or less devoid of any believable science was of course not a surprise this time and this probably made it easier for me to digest. Thus I could focus more on all the quaint throwbacks to the age of sale not to mention the age of empires taking potshots at each other every so often. Actually, while reading, I started to quite like these parts of the book not to mention the rather colorful old fashioned language used from time to time. Can you imagine a modern navy where the standard drink for the meals are wine for instance, or a good lashing with the cat is standard practice? The part where the crew runs up and down masts to raise and lower sails still irks me somewhat though.

The book reads very much like a good old fashioned pirate story and actors like Errol Flynn and Gregory Peck started to come to mind while I was reading it. It is a really nice classical adventure story, especially if you are not too bothered by the idiot captain and the “science” parts.

After having finished this book I felt much more like I wanted to pick up the next one, if one is written, than I felt after the first book. It was definitely an enjoyable read for most of the time.