sábado, abril 19, 2014

"David Starr - Space Ranger" by Isaac Asimov/Paul French

Lucky Starr, Book 1 - Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov in disguise...

I read this book for the first time a long time ago in a portuguese-brasilian edition. I've decided to re-read it again in English to see whether the original flavour was still there...

Once in a while I have to let the inner geek out, though my wife tries to make sure it doesn’t happen too often...Yes, I confess. I'm a SF/Fantasy nerd at heart.

SF was the main type of literature of my youth, filling it with time and space travel, aliens and starships. Then I read non-SF fiction for almost two decades and found a few years back that enough was enough. I returned to SF (to Fantasy no so much) and have been happy ever since. Why? It stimulates my brain, it makes me feel like a boy again – and because it says more about the present than any of the other fiction some people would like to write with a capital F. SF deals with the human condition in its own nuanced ways, which can frequently be more interesting and raise more questions for me. It's future-thinking rather than a past-reflecting thing.

This particular book is shallow. The characters are full-blown stereotypes. My brain was entirely turned off while reading it, but it still was an enjoyable book. A light-hearted adventure story good for a couple hours' relaxation and perfect for an afternoon.

Go for it if you feel up to it.

sexta-feira, abril 18, 2014

"Death Can't Take a Joke" by Anya Lipska

Death Can't Take a Joke (Kiszka and Kershaw) - Anya Lipska

Crime fiction is riddled with clichéd characters, that, in and of itself, is not a bad thing (it's all in the hands of the artist...a few examples come to mind: P.D James, Michael Connelly, Len Deighton, John Le Carré, Robert Littell, Henning Mankell, R. J. Ellory).
Pick up a book at random. Any book. I can tell you with almost 100% accuracy that every character in the book will fall into one of three groups:

(1) The gutless protagonist: This is usually a sidekick character who is too weak to stand up for himself;

(2) The delicate, easily hurt, easily offended, easily upset, irritable, temperamental, tender, thin-skinned, touchy, and umbrageous inspector. I've complained about this in previous reviews. These characters are capricious, changeable, erratic, faddish, fickle, fitful, flighty, impulsive, inconstant, mercurial, temperamental, unpredictable, unstable, unsteady, volatile (I've run out of adjectives lol); they also like to spend time reading the classics, listening to weird music, and quoting high literature over a glass of whiskey;

(3) The loathsome assassin: He may occasionally indulge in a bit of murder that involves children, elderly people, or men, but his favourite target is women. Especially young women, whom he likes to physically torture in any number of creepy and outrageous ways.

I call this the "Murder She Wrote" Syndrome, ie, if you come across an Angela-Lansbury-setting or -character, run the other way as fast as you can.

Anya Lipska was able to avoid all these traits, but this second volume didn't make my day like the previous one did due to manifold reasons, all having to do with some clichéd characterisation, and some unbelievable twists. I'm not sure why, but this time around I was noticing some things that didn't bother me while reading the first volume, namely the clichéd characters (grumpy police chief, jovial best friend, golden hearted prostitute, etc) and settings (clichéd setting in this particular novel "post-iron-curtain Eastern European immigrants for dramatic effect").

Nevertheless it was still a fun read.

Disclaimer: I received an advance reader's copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.

sexta-feira, abril 11, 2014

Codebits VII - 2014


Code away!

The frog does look rather intimidating, doesn't it...?





So much too choose from:


I've had my eye on this one for a while and I bought it at a bargain price:


quinta-feira, abril 10, 2014

Project 16 - Raspberry Pi vs Pibrella Expansion Board vs Python - Siren


As promissed and under the "influence" of Codebits 2014 that started on the 10th, I've explored the following Pribrella's physical interfaces through Python (just some basic functions):

Buzzer
LEDs
On-Off Button




Here the Python code I used to interface with the HW componentes referenced above:


Getting the source code from the RPi by FTP, I'll insert it here for better visibility:

# 2014-04-11 - MAAntao

import os,sys
sys.path.insert(1, os.path.join(sys.path[0], '..'))

import pibrella, time, signal

# Pulsar todos os LEDs da board

TIME_ON = 0.2
TIME_OFF = 0.2
FADE_ON = 0.2
FADE_OFF = 0.2

# TOCAR SIRENE

siren_stopped = True

def siren():
if siren_stopped == True:
pibrella.buzzer.stop()
return True
for x in xrange(-30,30,2):
pibrella.buzzer.note(x)
time.sleep(0.01)
for x in reversed(xrange(-30,30,2)):
pibrella.buzzer.note(x)
time.sleep(0.01)

pibrella.async_start('sirene',siren)

def start_siren():
global siren_stopped
siren_stopped = False
pibrella.light.pulse(TIME_ON, TIME_OFF, FADE_ON, FADE_OFF)

def stop_siren():
global siren_stopped
siren_stopped = True
pibrella.light.stop()

def handle_button(button):
global siren_stopped
if siren_stopped == True:
start_siren()
print "Arranque da Sirene"
else:
stop_siren()
print "Parar a Sirene"

pibrella.button.released(handle_button)

# Suspender durante 20 segundos

#time.sleep(20)

signal.pause()

# Sair!

(if you want to fork/mock the abovementioned code, just upload it to your own Raspberry Pi)
  
By executing the python script with root ("sudo python sirene.py"):


The script launches ("Arranque da Sirene"):


See the three LEDs blinking on and off (photo and video):



By pressing the red button by the LED's the siren stops :


This piece of code can have several uses:

  1. Clock Alarm;
  2. Motion Detector Alarm;
  3. (...)

Happy hacking. You don’t learn to hack – you hack to learn…

MAAntão

sábado, abril 05, 2014

Project 15 - Raspberry Pi vs Pibrella Expansion Board


Pribella expansion board


It came out on the 4th of March in the UK. A month later it finally got here:


Removed the lid of the Raspberry Pi box, in order to attach the Pibrella on the Raspberry Pi:


Pibrella board hooked to the Raspberry Pi  (the GertBoard expansion board on the side remained in place):


Ready to rock:

Top on top of the image = GertBoard v2
Board underneath = Raspberry Pi
Board on top of the raspberry Pi = Pibrella


The Pibrella has the following items on-board:
  • 1 each of Red, Amber and Green LEDs.
  • A buzzer.
  • A on-off button;
  • Protected input/outputs broken out to female headers;
  • I2C bus is broken out, although you’ll have to add pins yourself for that.

In the next posts, I'll explore the board.

Happy hacking. You don’t learn to hack – you hack to learn…

MAAntão

"The Narrows" by Ronald Malfi

The Narrows - Ronald Malfi
My first Malfi novel and it won’t be my last.

In the last few years I shied away from the horror genre. I always got the feeling of déjà vu. Malfi made me want to read Horror again.

I’ve always felt that Horror works better as a short story than in long form (novel). Of course exceptions abound, but they just confirm this rule. “The Narrows” is one of those novels (like “The Stand” by King was as well).

No noticeable “style” to be seen (excluding multiple POV’s, which I don’t count as “style”). Still on the subject of style (or lack of it), I’ve always considered style a dreadful thing for a writer to have…Nothing is so refreshing as to read a novel where “style” is strangely absent. The proverbial “what you see is what you get” is quite an apt analogy here. When an author tries to come up with an intelligent way of putting things on paper, that’s when things start going wrong.

Because this novel was my first Malfi, I’ve got nothing to compare it with. Malfi seems to be old-school in this novel. Let me explain. He seems to dwell on the dreadful (like King). In this respect he has taken a risk, for horror is in fashion nowadays. The number of horror of novels coming out is huge. Unfortunately quality is not on par with quantity. The death of horror was announced my many, but it’s still here.

Horror in my view comes from that grey area, which we cannot confront directly because it’s so threatening to our minds. It’s through Horror that we can address the stuff coming from that grey area, ie, through literature (metaphor).

Malfi was able to retain everything that make Horror what it should be in the first place: captivating, heartfelt, intense, and in one word: “Truly horrific”.

This is not a novel about heroes. Through the use of the multiple-POV I was able to experience what almost all the characters were going through, ie, Malfi’s character development was so full-fledged that by the end of the novel, I felt I knew everyone well and what’s more, I really cared about them.

In this novel Evil is not supposed to be understood. It’s shown in it most pure form. Evil for evil’s sake so to speak (“The Stand” by King comes to mind).

This novel shows that Horror is still a vigorous and living body of literature that continues to evolve and thrill me with the mystery and wonders of the unknown.

I’ve got to dig up some of his other novels and confirm whether this particular work was not some kind of fluke.

"Die Gedichte" by Bertold Brech


"Die Gedichte by Brecht". It has finally arrived!
"Die Gedichte by Brecht". It has finally arrived!
Die Gedichte - Bertolt Brecht, Jan Knopf

After ordering it almost a month ago, it's arrived!

My favourite "Stückeschreiber".

Along with Heine, Brecht used "Gebrauchslyrik" do draw attention both to the aesthetic and to the utilitarian function of poetry.

1647 pages of poetry in a tiny typeface... Good grief! Price to pay fo