Chuck Gray

Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip by Kris Straub

As with my review of Altered Carbon, I've arrived at the Starslip webcomic party a little late, as in, the seven-year series is finished.  However, that might add a welcome bittersweet flavor to each strip I read as I come closer and closer to the end.  I have fallen head-over-heels in love with all of author Kris Straub’s characters, his artistic style, and his off-kilter sense of humor as he simultaneously pays homage to and lampoons the best and worst traits of sci-fi soap operas.  With every click of the forward-pointing arrow I know I am coming to the close of an incredible story, but, like with any good book, I can't stop!

Must-Have iPhone Apps

Must-Have iPhone Apps

As promised in my list of must-have Android apps, here is a list of must-have iPhone apps!  The Apple App Store has a larger selection of quality apps than the Google Play store does, though that gap is quickly shrinking.  Unfortunately it has fewer free apps, so you’ll see more price tags attached to this article.  You may also notice several repeats from the Android list, as many of these apps are cross-platform and a joy to use on any device.  Your iPhone is a computing powerhouse, and there is so much more that you can do with it than you realize.  Take a look at my list below to get some ideas! 

Must-Have Android Apps

Must-Have Android Apps

With the rise of the smartphone we have entered the world of the app.  My, my, there is an app for that, isn’t there?  Problem is, there are thousands upon thousands of them, and I’ll tell you what, most of them are junk.  But this just makes the good ones stand out that much more.  This is a list of my favorite apps for Android phones; I will follow this up soon with a list for iPhone/iPad users.  And, please understand this list is by no means comprehensive and does not include games.  These are simply the apps that I have found to be the most useful and fun in my day-to-day life.  If you have a favorite Android app that you’d like to see added to this list please contact me here or leave a comment on Facebook!  Most of these apps are free, except for a few that I’ve marked otherwise. 

Utilities:

Lookout Security & Antivirus – FREE, w/ paid upgrades
Your Android smartphone can get a virus just as easily, if not more easily, than a PC or Mac.  Make this your first install.  The free version will run scheduled scans of your phone for viruses and make certain that every app installed is safe.  It will also allow you to locate your phone in the event that it is lost.  For a few dollars a month, you can get extra features like safe Web browsing and a privacy advisor which will keep track of which apps have access to personal data on your phone. 

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

I'd put off reading Altered Carbon for a few years, always reading something newer.  Shame on me.  This Philip K. Dick Award-winner is a brilliantly dark and gritty mixture of hardboiled detective fiction and cyberpunk that anyone looking for a story with a razor-sharp edge will love. 

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

The Best eBook Tablets Aren't What You Think

Ask your average person what the best ebook tablets on the market are and they will tell you Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, and the Apple iPad. I'll tell you to look elsewhere. Barnes and Noble and Amazon may have created the $200-$250 ebook tablet niche, but others are rushing in to capitalize on it and they're much, much better options. Here's why.  

Bye-bye Carrier!

I gave up my smartphone contract the other day and I'm only too glad I did.  Wait, this is the library blog - what am I doing writing an opinion piece about cellphone carriers here?  Library patrons come to me on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with questions about their smartphones.  These little devices we carry around in our pockets and purses like so much loose change represent some of the greatest advancements in computing, telecommunications, and miniaturization technologies ever.

Lifelong Learning Online

Lifelong Learning Online

The Internet is the largest repository of information ever conceived of.  It is not, however, the best organized repository of quality information ever conceived of.   For those of us who like to use the Internet as a source of continuing education, finding the quality chunks of information and learning can be daunting.  Here are a few of the places I like to visit when I'm in the mood to learn something new. 

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Let me get this out of the way: if you're not a "computer person," someone with more than a vague knowledge of computer networking technology, Brain Jack, by Brian Falkner, is probably not the book for you. If, however, you ARE such a person, Brain Jack will start off as the kind of thriller that you think you will love, but its ending, like so many other cyber-thrillers, feels rushed and absurd. Don’t get me wrong--you'll enjoy reading it, but don't expect anything too deep from this book.  

Sam is the generic hero of our story. He's 17; he's a computer prodigy; and he's going to save the country from itself. The world of Brain Jack is set only a few years into our future. Falkner does a good job of building a world that, initially, is entirely conceivable based on our present. Computer technology is even more prevalent, and its consequences all the more potent. Las Vegas has been the victim of a nuclear attack that has left it in ruins, and the rest of the country is decaying under strict martial conditions.

Cultivating Computer Community

Cultivating Computer Community

In the spirit of our Cultivating Community effort for this year, I thought I would share with you some of the computing resources that the library and the community both have to offer.  There’s more help available to you than you think!

First off let me start by telling you about the Fredericksburg PC Users Group.  Their website is http://fpcug.org/.  They can also be found on Facebook and Meetup.com.  The FPCUG provides a variety of meetings and speakers for beginners and veterans alike.  If you want to learn more about your new PC or are having difficulties with it, there’s a good chance somebody at the FPCUG can help!

Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Try it Yourself!

windows 8 logo

I know a lot of us are still getting used to Windows 7, having only recently upgraded or purchased a new computer with it preinstalled.  But guess what?  Windows “8” is right around the corner, and you can try it for yourself today by visiting http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview.  Microsoft has released a free preview version of Windows 8 to the public that, on the whole, will be largely the same as the full release, minus some bugs that will be ironed out between