Chuck Gray

WWW: Wake by Robert Sawyer

For science fiction aficionados, the premise of WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer initially sounds, well, perhaps a bit contrived (even beyond the normal contrivances of science fiction).  But keep reading: the protagonist, Caitlin Dector, is a young blind millennial who has never known a world without the Internet, a world she can navigate with ease through the use of assistive technologies.  Caitlin becomes the subject of an experimental procedure to restore sight.  However, when her vision is "switched on" she does not see the physical world, but an abstract representation of the World Wide Web.  While exploring her strange new ability, she discovers a growing intelligence emerging from within the Web . . .   see what I mean?  My first thought after hearing this description was, "That sounds like the plot of a bad 90s Outer Limits episode."  After cracking the book open however, I found WWW: Wake tells a fascinating story, blending the best of both science fiction and hard science as well as cyberculture, blind culture, information theory, epidemiology, world politics, family dynamics, pedagogical theory, teenage culture, and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of.  All of that in one book.  And it's really, really good. 

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

If you enjoy dark humor, dry wit, tales of the occult and rooting for the bad guy, then you need to start reading Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard right away.  Cabal is a "scientist" obsessed with destroying death.  Toward this end, he has traded his soul with the Devil for knowledge of necromancy.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Cabal actually needs his soul to perform his experiments and so returns to the Devil, this time agreeing to collect 100 souls within a year or forfeit his own life for good.  To aid Cabal in his quest is a demonic carnival, his vampire brother Horst (one of Johannes' early experimental whoopsies) and an insane asylum’s-worth of escaped psychotics.  Johannes Cabal has one year in which to trick, bribe, extort, charm, bedazzle, bully, bludgeon or otherwise convince 100 people to sign their souls over to the Devil or he is dead and Hell-bound to boot. 

Donating Your Computer's Time

Modern computers are many times more powerful than they need to be for most of the things we use them for.  Simply writing papers, surfing the Web, watching videos, playing games, etc. . . such tasks don't take full advantage of these machines' potential and when they're not in use, well . . . they're not in use.  They could be doing so much more. 

It's 2010 - Do You Know Where Your Digital Music Is?

I shouldn't have to tell you the music CD is dead, as is every audio format that came before it, with the possible exception of vinyl, the fax machine of the music world.  Music is digital, end of story.  Digital music differs from any of its progenitors in its lack of physicality; there is no disc that you can put on your shelves, no album liner notes that you can flip through unless of course you create all of that yourself, but doesn't that defeat the point?  If you have a digital music collection of over 6000 tracks, you're not going to take the time, spend the money, or use the space to create physical CDs for each of those albums.  Still, we need to be able to keep track of our music and that's sometimes easier said than done. 

The Library on Your Phone

If you're not on the Internet with your mobile phone, chance are you soon will be.  With the adoption rate for smartphones and other cellular Internet devices skyrocketing, these devices are stealing the spotlight from laptop computers and vying for the position as our dominant mobile computing solutions.  With this transition has come a plethora of mobile applications to meet our every need and then some (and some more).  We want to be able to do everything our regular computers can do on our smartphones.  For many of us, that includes using the library.  We're in luck. 

Carry Your Programs with You Everywhere

Most computer users these days use laptops as their portable computing solution and take them almost everywhere they go.  There are those situations, however, when you need access to your programs and your files, but of course, you forgot your laptop when you needed it most.  Fortunately there’s easy access to a computer nearby, but it doesn’t have anything you need on it.  What to do? 

Literary Comfort Food

Though as a librarian I'm constantly reading new books and other materials, I, like most people, have those books to which I turn time and again.  I know exactly how they're going to end, I know most of the plot details, and I feel I have a close, personal connection with the protagonists.  Some of these I have read to the point that the cover has torn away, but I keep them anyway. Why?  Because I love them dearly.  

Most of my favorite novels are science fiction or cyberpunk.  Probably my favorite of all these books is Accelerando by Charles Stross, in which the transition of mankind from biological lifeform to almost purely informational and back again is deeply influenced by three generations of the same family across several centuries.  Its follow-up, Glasshouse, is set in the same universe, but rather than focusing on the future of humanity, this book sets its main characters in a far-future simulation of what twentieth century life was like; its extrapolation of modern life as viewed by our long-removed descendents is endlessly fascinating. 

The eBook eVolution

Let’s talk about eBook readers. I’m sure you’ve seen one by now. Rectangular pieces of plastic capable of storing thousands of books to be read anytime, anywhere. Now equipped with screens employing the latest “electronic ink” technology that mimics the lighting qualities of real paper, they are fast supplanting the "traditional" portable media player as the tech to talk about. 

The Windows 7 Age

Windows 7, the anticipated successor to the oft-maligned Windows Vista operating system from Microsoft, has arrived.  Now available in stores on DVD-ROM, on the web for download (http://store.microsoft.com/win7netbooks), and on newly-purchased PCs, Microsoft has a lot riding on the acceptance of their new OS.

Ditch Your Cable

TV Is Dead. Long Live TV

In these lean times, we’re all looking for ways to cut household costs. You may be pondering whether you should ditch the cable TV or the broadband Internet to free up $50 a month. Take my advice and lose the cable. Heck, even if you aren’t in a financial pickle, go ahead and dump it. Your life will be better for it. Here’s why.