Chuck Gray

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

book cover for pirate cinema by cory doctorow

Leave it to Cory Doctorow, author, blogger, and technology activist-extraordinaire, to weave a story that successfully blends coming-of-age woes, homelessness, national politics, copyright law, cooking, gadgetry, love, overcoming homophobia, civil disobedience, film-making, mashups, public speaking, the judicial system, beer and coffee brewing, cryptography, and oh so, so much more into a wonderfully geeky, heart-wrenching, page-turning bang-up novel that people of all ages should read.  This book is full of such big, exquisite ideas to learn about that you’ll be Googling your fingers off through the entire story and I mean that in the best way possible.  You will learn reading Pirate Cinema and you will love this as much as you love the characters. 

The Hidden Cost of Freemium

free-to-play logo image

Free.  Everybody likes free.  I mean, what’s not to like about free?  It’s free!  Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning.  “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!”  Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games.  Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word.  Free they say?  Nonsense, we say.  Let’s take a look.

Welcome to the New Tech Answers!

picture of modern computers

Technology can be frustrating, confusing, and downright irritating to some.  For others, it’s the reason to get up in the morning.  Whatever your stance, you can count on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library as one of the region’s prime sources of technology assistance.  With our Training on Demand classes and our eBook help, you can get a lot of bang for your no-buck!  We help with learning PC, Internet, Email, and other beginners topics including Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, and even Access.  We can explain to you the ups and downs of the different eReaders and their respective eBook stores, not to mention how to use those devices with our free eBooks!  And now we’re gearing up to offer you even more technical content on Librarypoint with our revamped Tech Answers page!

Job Help at the Library

help wanted advertisements

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library should definitely be your first stop if you’re searching for a new job.  Few institutions provide the level of service and number of quality resources we do and fewer still for free.  From books to databases to personalized help, the library is the premier source of job-help services.  

An Open Letter to eBook Publishers & Retailers: How and Why to Fix eBooks

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Dear eBook Retailers & Publishers, 

The eBook world has fallen into an even sorrier state with Amazon's announcement that its new Kindle Fires will feature unwanted advertisements right out of the box (though Amazon caved pretty quickly on offering users a way to buy out the ads).  I read that, then I re-read my last blog post reviewing different aspects of eBook retailers: four pages worth of trying to make sense of the eBook landscape and that was after some serious condensing.  I brooded for a moment, then said to myself, "eBooks are a big, stinky mess!"  

I keep hoping and praying that the eBook situation will get better, but aside from Tor's announcement that their eBooks will no longer be copy-protected, things are getting worse.  There are too many different eBook stores using too many different file and copy-protection standards, methods for transferring eBooks, and too many types of hardware, many tied to a single retailer.  So to the eBook powers-that-be: I'm done being coy and hoping that you'll come to these conclusions on your own.  Here's what you need to do!

Your Guide to eBook Retailers

ebook readers

The holiday shopping season is looming which means it’s time for a new round of eReaders to be introduced from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and maybe, just maybe, Apple, and there will be several months of us giving them our money.  But before you buy, read on to find out exactly what you’re getting into, in terms of both hardware and retailer.

Web Site Builders

Web Design

When the Web was still new, it was necessary to know how to code in order to create a Web page.  Languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript and more were the tools in your utility belt to build a Web presence.  The truly savvy could (and can) do most of this with nothing more than a plain text editor, though most people turned to programs like Dreamweaver to more easily and quickly assemble entire sites.  Then you had to choose your Web hosting service.  Then you had to FTP your pages to the hosting service. . . it was an involved process.  I haven’t done any professional Web design in close to a decade so I couldn’t tell you what the pros are up to these days, but I’ll tell you what I tell all my training-on-demand students: who cares?  Use a Web site builder service to streamline the process. It will save you time, grief, brain power, and probably some money!

Avoiding Sneakware

I see it all the time: PCs choking on gobs of uninvited software to the point where they barely function.  They may be Web browser toolbars or antivirus utilities or programs that promise to speed up your computer, when in fact they do exactly the opposite.  It enrages me to see programs like these on my customers’ computers because I know that they did not knowingly install these programs--these programs waltzed in with another that the customer did want.  This sort of software is referred to as “sneakware.” It’s kind of like the plus-four your buddy brings to your small gathering that was really only supposed to be a plus-one at most. It’s rude, annoying, and most people don’t know how to properly say “no.”  I can’t help you with your social skills, but I can tell you how to say no to sneakware.

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

C.S. Friedman has long been one of my favorite fantasy writers or, really, writers in general. Having written two trilogies and four stand-alone novels in the past two decades, she's not the most prolific writer in the fantasy world, but when she chooses to publish, her work is always brilliant. I was first introduced to her stories in high school by a friend who was in the middle of reading her Coldfire Trilogy. I've always been loathe to accept recommendations from friends who say, "You've gotta read this book!" but I'm glad I did. And now with her second series, the Magister Trilogy, I've just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Feast of Souls.  

This first book takes place in a world that is practically medieval, with tales of small, squalid villages, deeply-forested trails, and grand, opulent capital cities and castles. Friedman takes great care to emphasize the disparity between the peasants--dirty, uneducated, and willing to sell themselves and their families to stay afloat--while the rich go about their lives oblivious to those "below" them. There are three main categories of persons in this book: the morati, regular mortal people, no matter their walk of life; the witches, natural magicians who must draw upon their own life-force to perform their work and who, consequently, are rather short-lived; and the magisters, mysterious sorcerers who act as political counselors and power brokers who do not die. The secret to magisters' immortality is known only to them.  

The Post-PC Era: Humbug

The Post-PC Era: Humbug

If you pay attention to technology news at all, you might have heard the term “post-pc era” tossed about.  This term was, if not coined, then certainly nurtured most heartily by Steve Jobs when talking about the iPad.  It’s a funny thing about the iPad: when it was first announced everybody just sort of shrugged and said “So what?  It’s just a big iPhone!”  But people bought them anyway and it turned out that there was indeed a huge market for these devices.  Now we use them for all sorts of things, and I will admit that my tablet gets me through most of my casual computer usage at home.  Web browsing, book reading, video watching, etc. are now all accomplished on a piece of plastic and glass that fits comfortably in my hand and has a battery that lasts all day.  Tablet computers have seen a much faster adoption rate than PCs did, and this popularity has many in the media and at Apple singing the PC's death.  How wrong they all are.