Sunday, July 15, 2012


[Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

As I mentioned before, I was going to switch from using Avast! Pro Anti-Virus to BitDefender Anti-Virus Pro 2013 on my birthday Wednesday. I was tired of Avast!'s ceaseless hectoring to renew as much as anything. But I was also troubled by reports from Patrick of an issue on some machines that had Avast! on them when a Microsoft ordained update came down from on high. Like on this past Tuesday.

And naturally, my machine was pummeled in the aftermath. As the previous blog notes, my machine was soon bollixed up, I had to reformat and re-install. Was it Avast!"s fault? Maybe Microsoft's? Bad pairing? Or the vagaries of luck that accompanies publicly revealing your plans to ditch something? Who knows?

On to brighter and better AV products. Having dispensed with the A's (AVG and Avira before Avast!), I was moving onto the B's. BitDefender to be precise. I installed it on Saturday morning. Let it run on my machine for about 18 hours. And then UNINSTALLED it and sent nasty, bordering on rude, emails to the BitDefender people.

I assume from reviews that BitDefender works. And probably works for a lot of people. But in my system, with double, triple and quadruple redundant backup systems, the simplistic BitDefender failed. It went about deleting things it disliked. And it disliked lots of stuff it found disagreeable, include programs with installers for crapware that I'm smart enough to NOT install when I put them onto my computer. And by deleting, I mean, made to be gone, not to the Recycle Bin and NOT to a quarantined area. Without asking me so much as a question first. It even deleted a PAS file, which I WROTE and know NOT to be infected.

BitDefender is not for me. Small computer systems without much saved that MIGHT have lousy cookie installers? Sure. But for me, this was money sent down the toilet. And I still don't have full knowledge of what all the program made to poof while I was occupied elsewhere. And that meant deleting files from original source and then their backups. To say I really, really, really, really was mad was to underestimate my ability to go thermo-nuclear and still not burst blood vessels. Although, you know, my nose seems redder already.

Okay, onto the next candidate. I can't JUST rely on Windows Defender. If I try, Microsoft's Action Centre flag nags about needing to find an anti-virus product. Even goes to a helpful web page with tens of them. So say what you want about Defender, even Microsoft doesn't trust that it will do the job. (in a way, that allows me to claim a D in this alphabetic race to find a solution).

So, my NEW AV product is eSet Anti-Virus. I've recommended the web-site AV scan for people who suspect their computer has been compromised. But this is my first time actually trying the disk-based product. A 30-day trial. And so far, it looks like I might have found my new defender against the slimeware that is out there. But, it's on trial. And if the trial doesn't work, then it's on to MalwareBytes. I'll keep you posted.

Honest, I will.

COMPUTERS: An Unfunny Thing Happened On The Way...

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I REALLY DID have intentions of posting almost regularly this month. I have reasons and even some excuses. But you would be bored by them. Still, ONE explanation is probably important to get out.

IF you are running Avast! anti-virus, make sure you make a backup of the C:\ drive some time on the Monday before Microsoft's Update Tuesday. Oh, and two different types would PROBABLY come in handy IF you one of the chosen few that MIGHT have (let's call them) issues, the unhappy pairing of Avast! and MS Windows update MIGHT cause (I think I have enough allegedly allegories there to indicate how rare a thing this MIGHT be). Patrick tells me he knows of THREE machines where the update process went belly-up and the ONLY solution was uninstalling Avast!, doing the update, and then re-installing Avast!. Once it was the free version, the other times Pro installs. And actually he knows of FOUR machines with the problem.

My machine, Quincy, was the fourth.

And I had backups up the wazoo. I have file backups. I have image backups done regularly. And I even have cloud backup in a couple of places. As of Tuesday night, though, Quincy was an unbootable mess that would boot into Safe Mode (not very viable), or produce the dreaded Blue Screen of Death if I attempted a standard log in.

I spent two days playing email tag with the support specialist at the German HQ of the drive image program. He seemed genuinely shocked when even the latest unreleased version of the product proved unable to recover my lovingly regularly-created drive snapshots to replace the mess Microsoft (and, I believe, Avast!) had made of my year-old Solid State Hard Drive. There are, other potential guilty parties that various involved parties pointed at. Certainly, one early candidate was the ADB driver I installed for my Toshiba Thrive tablet, an Android device. I rooted it a couple of weeks back. That's the subject of a whole different blog later this month. Everybody seemed to agree that it WAS a driver issue. My habit of NOT installing programs, including hardware drivers, to the C: drive came into focus as a causitive agent. But nobody had a confirmed villain and nobody, worst of all, had a working fix.

On Thursday night, I pulled the plug and re-formatted Quincy's C: drive and re-installed Windows 7. At the SAME time, I was back on Popeye (my older, backup machine) programming some important updates for a main client and also finding out somebody was back-dating some data entry for that client thus creating a difference in June's data reports here from the reports running there. Arrrrggghhh!!!!

Still, by Friday night, I had an operational Quincy, minus the programming environment, which for me, is usually a 48 hour commitment when I do it. I think I can probably reserve Tuesday and get it done in a single day. Why? Well, remember that criticism for keeping data on drive D: and programs on drive E:? Well losing drive C: meant I DID NOT lose the program's installed on E: and their configuration files. PLUS, I COULD and DID have backups with almost current copies of whatever configuration files were on C: the day before the crash. PLUS a copy of the registry, which came in handy in NOT having to customize my file manager all over again (a day long process shrunk down to ten minutes).

So, I type this Sunday morning. Most everything I use day to day is back. My Win7 environment is a little faster than before, not having all of those extra 'just to look at' programs installed. I've even figured out some improvements this time around. My shortcuts to programs that I wanted in Startup, but had to OK them during startup, no longer do that. I created a shortcut for them. Went into the properties and changed each of them to run as administrator and then moved THAT shortcut to the startup folder. An annoyance cured. If you right click on the taskbar and choose properties, change the Taskbar buttons to combine when taskbar is full. The best of the Classic XP and Win 7 default behaviours. Very, very neat.

I now have an install order in my Evernote notebook of what I did, what I changed and in what order. For example, I needed Microsoft Intellipoint early in the process, because to use a trackball for decades and then have the buttons do different things ... well, AARRGGHH!!! Did it seventh, should have been third. First, my file manager, then 7-zip. Evernote was fourth, because I've been slowly going through my programs and opening the settings dialogs and just grabbing a screen picture and popping them into Evernote. Like I said, I've largely recovered all of the programs I use more than once in a blue moon, and a large part of it was having incontrovertible documentation of which boxes were checked, radio buttons dotted and pick lists pointing to MY preferred setting.

With these backups, incapable as they were to provide for a 20-minute recovery as I have experienced in the past, I have a very complex environment back after less than 48 hours of work, done simultaneously with setting up a DIFFERENT computer and doing some programming. All with a LOT less stress than you might expect me to respond to. All because I had backups. Backups are good, people. Friday the 13th and their corresponding 3 Days of Hell lead-ups are going to happen. You can either expect and prepare for a semi-relaxed few days after ... or find some place high to jump from.

BACKUP TODAY. And tomorrow, and the day after, and ...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SPORTS: Dwight Howard- How to Lose Fans and Make Enemies

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Is there any sports hero that has fallen further and faster than Dwight Howard in recent memory? A LOT of fans didn't like LeBron James pre-'The Decision.' A fall, but from lower in the airy pantheon of sports heroes. Jealous fellow golfers had instituted enough of a whisper campaign so that Tiger Woods backing into a monument and some garbage cans, and subsequently heading for divorce and a career swoon that might or might not be over, is maybe the closest analogy.

But everybody loved lovable Dwight Howard, the Man-Child in the Superman cape. He did some extraordinary things, but then shot free throws badly enough that he felt human. Human as in, WE could do 'that poorly,' and a LOT of us could do better. Not after being pounded on for 35 minutes by behemoths from other teams. But perception doesn't actually have to match reality. Dwight Howard smiled for the cameras. And women, children and even men swooned. We, the public, loved the public persona we were allowed to see.

Behind the scenes, of course, things were different. And in the last 11 months, we, the public, have seen just how different the man and the myth are. Dwight Howard has privately told the Orlando Magic that contract or not, he wanted to be traded. And he wanted to go where the Russian Rubles-turned-Dollars were flowing ... Brooklyn, New York. Heck, he'd even spend a few months playing for one of the worst teams in the league, in New Jersey, before moving to the part of New York City that Staten Islanders joke about. Dwight Howard didn't want to go ANYWHERE else, including places where they were serious about winning a title. He wanted to go to Brooklyn. Sooner than later. And if he didn't get his way, he would leave in a season's time.

All that would have been fine, 'cept he let his private betrayal of his team go public. And when THAT didn't work, he worked to undermine the team's coach, a difficult fellow in his own right, but a good man ultimately. He campaigned for a good coach to be fired. For the temerity of not kowtowing to he, THE Dwight Howard, sent down from the pantheon of basketball gods to lead the Brooklyn Nets to prominence again.

The impetus for this post was an article at Wages of Win Journal that asked whether Orlando OWED anything to Dwight Howard. The article leaned towards giving the big guy a big send-off, rather than kicking his keister to the curb. Dwight Howard HAD earned out his contract and then some. Orlando gave him all the money it could ... under league rules. It also allowed him to operate as a de facto GM, acquiring players that were friends or that caught his eye. Whatever Dwight Howard wanted. Orlando fulfilled more than just the letter of the contract it signed with Dwight Howard. It fulfilled the spirit and then some. Dwight Howard? Never learned to shoot free throws. Couldn't be on the court in crucial time at the end of the game because he couldn't (wouldn't?) learn to shoot free throws. Never developed much of an offensive game that he wasn't gifted by nature to begin with. And he cashed every cheque Orlando gave him and basked in the adulation of the public as a good guy hero.

So, why reward Dwight Howard at all. Orlando doesn't OWE him a damn thing. Period. He didn't carry his head high on the way out of town as so many have. See Nash, Steve for a recent example of how loyal behaviour actually begets loyalty, even to the departed. Dwight Howard?

The sentence that goes here was originally short and sweet. It included at least one word describing a sexual act and was intended to deliver my intent to have Dwight Howard regret his actions while being ... well, you know. I don't have to say it. This mental midget wants a new toy (that is, a new coach in a new town with a spigot of money that will flow his way, while 'other benefits' will accrue). Okay, that's doable if you are a free agent.

But Dwight Howard is NOT a free agent. He could have been. But in a blindingly awesome display of stupidity bordering on .... well, I can't think of any other stupider decision recently ... he GAVE UP HIS IMPEDING FREE AGENCY. Well, maybe not COMPLETELY stupid. He was still hoping Orlando would help him along by TRADING him to the Nets for pennies on the talent dollar so that he would get maximum pay from his new overlord (and I'm not talking about Watson the IBM computer). Traitorous, childish and greedy. Not the stuff heroes are made of, is it?

Of course, Dwight Howard doesn't want to appear to be the villain. He actually floated the theory he'd been blackmailed into declining his opt-out option (and wouldn't WE like to know what he was being blackmailed with) but did a u-turn on that one extra fast when it didn't gain any traction, save for derision.

Like any person not living and cheering for either Orlando or Brooklyn, I am sick and tired of Dwight Howard. He's become schadenfreude material of the first order and I can't but hope that bad things happens to him. Not negative life-altering things, but he's already got a bad back. Who's to say that isn't the karmic response to his shenanigans? And whoever in Brooklyn that has been shining light into his eyes at the expense of the actual GOOD teams in the NBA, maybe YOUR involvement in this turncoat creation is about to be visited upon you too.

Orlando doesn't owe Dwight Howard a damn thing. The Magic will trade him, likely to Brooklyn if the rumour mill is true. Then, like Cleveland in the post-James era, the team needs to get good enough to beat whatever team this tantrum-throwing child ends up. Frequently and when it counts. That's all. CERTAINLY nothing more. And it could have been a whole lot less. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

SPORTS: Raptor Report ... In Progress

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Took a couple of days to rest from posting FIVE, count 'em, FIVE straight days. So, now, I've had a break and I'm baaaaaack!

The topic du jour is the incredible ignorance demonstrated by actual paid pro basketball writers, bloggers that consume too much of the wine and idiotic Toronto Raptor fans. It's a pretty nauseating bunch. NOTE: Not all pro basketball writers, bloggers or Raptor fans are included the in the Ignorance List.

Let's start with the hand-wringing over Steve Nash's declining Toronto's offer after LISTENING to the offer. He also listened to others, and if word filtered out in the least about what he was thinking of the offers, it didn't get to me, first-hand, second-hand, even fifth-hand. Did he STRING the Raptors along? Did he USE the Raptor offer to stimulate other offers? Uh, NO. Despite saying a week prior he couldn't see doffing his Suns' uni for the dreaded enemy's colours, his only mis-step that I am aware of, he signed to be relatively near his kids and with a team that can remedy that "Greatest Player NEVER to make the NBA finals" label.

And NOT getting Nash hardly qualifies Bryan Colangelo for the dunce cap. He offered 8-9 MILLION dollars MORE for Captain Canada than either L.A. or N.Y. He put on the kind of dog and pony show that DID work the last time he tried it on Nash. And instead of cowering in a corner like you all DUNCES want, he rebounded by stealing Kyle Lowry for a weirdly protected pick and third (maybe fourth) stringer Gary Forbes. The weird protection? For the next four summers (maybe it's five), the Raptors owe Houston a draft pick. It's protected a bit in case calamity (Andrea Bargnani getting hurt in training camp and every added player in the interim being crappy) strikes, so that Toronto can get a superstar to start  rebuilding with. But it's also protected the OTHER way. If it's not in the so-called lottery, then Houston gets to hold off taking the pick. Eventually 2018 will arrive and the Rockets will take the pick then, whether best or worst, or in-between. THAT's Toronto's plan, don't be in the lottery until 2019 at the earliest and finally hand Houston payment for Lowry in the 20's.

Which brings me to the most consistently idiotic phrase you heard over the last month when Raptor talk was heard. They'll amnesty Jose Calderon. GIVING away a player for ONE SEASON of cap relief without looking through the trade market or offering a buyout, is dumb, dumb beyond all belief. I like Glen Grunwald as a man and as a basketball intellect. How he signed off on ditching Chauncey Billups rather than trying to trade the guy first, I'll never know. Don't think Billups and a future first (supposedly never going to be of any value) would have merited a second-round pick from somebody? Or even two picks? A trade exception and a bench filler? No, despite the fact that Nash WOULD HAVE FIT INTO THE RAPTOR CAP WITHOUT AMNESTYING CALDERON by merely rescinding a contract offer to putative back-up PG Jerryd Bayless or amnestying a guy WITH a long-term contract that wasn't earning out (Amir Johnson, who, as much as I love the guy as a human being, has been too hurt, too regularly to earn out, especially with the influx of big men since he signed the contract).

Don't think Houston would love NOT TO START Shaun Livingston at point guard this fall? Think Calderon appeals to them, what with their fifty-five forwards, many of whom vaguely fill the small forward description. So, after Morely FINALLY gives up his vision quest for Dwight Howard for a season, maybe he calls ol' trading pal Bryan and says, all right, send me Calderon, Ed Davis, James Johnson and Amir Johnson and you can have that wacko trade pick back and one more future second, or two, plus SF Chandler Parsons and your pick of the forward draftees. (That would be Royce White for those of you who are wondering). Bryan would say sure, and follow up that deal with re-signing Bayless to be the mini-Lowry afterall. Plus the apparently already-done re-upping of Centre Aaron Gray.

Or does the fact that Dallas, who wiffed big-time on Howard making himself available legitimately this summer (the man-CHILD doing everything in his tantrumic powers to rectify THAT little mistake) and thus winning the heart of Deron Williams, now faces a future of starting Roddy Beaubois at the point. Sure, it might end up being Ray Felton on some three-year deal, or Ramon Sessions on a three-year deal or even Bayless. But surely that doesn't fill Mark Cuban's heart with pride or give Dirk Nowitzki any kind of confidence. Nowitzki thought he might be playing with Howard, Williams and roster filler come November. Now, it will be Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Felton? Ahhhhhhh, NEIN! Maybe Dallas can spring free Darren Collison from Indiana. OR, the Mavs could come back to Toronto (yes, trade discussions did occur) and enquire if the price for Calederon had come down at all. Would Toronto be interested in Marion for Calderon straight up? Ahh, no. Maybe Dallas would so good as to add to their BIG man roster by taking on Amir Johnson's contract too. (and you ALL know, I dream the big man on the go would be Ed Davis). Sure, Dallas would have to send some draft picks back. Maybe some pay roll on short contracts. But getting ONE-YEAR of Calderon, allowing Dallas to re-tool next summer, would certainly have value. And indeed, if Dallas doesn't want to turn 2012-2013 into a full-on rebuilder, this is the kind of trade the Mavs will HAVE to make.

Giving away Calderon, ne PAYING Calderon to go away, has to be the single most idiotic thing ANY supposed roundball fan/expert/reporter has said, written or otherwise communicated in a looooooong time. And yes, I DID muse about the possibility AFTER Calderon's replacement was in hand (Nash) and after NO other team would have reduced themselves to NO COMPETENT NBA STARTER at the point guard position. Non mea culpa finished. I really do understand the ignorance of the American members of the non-intelligensia. They see one Raptor game a year and if it's a bad one, they can get the impression Calderon's old, worn and done. Limited sample leads to uninformed opinions. But Raptor fans? The ones who supposedly WATCH a lot of games. Idiots. (Sorry Mom).

Even evaluating the team on the work Colangelo has done thus far is premature exposition. That's obvious. The word circulating was that Jamaal Magloire was coming back to provide what he did last year: Occasional hard fouls, professionalism, cheer-leading, and teaching young'uns how to do the same. But the news today of Gray's signing probably means Magloire either goes directly into coaching (with a hefty community ambassadorial role) or plays elsewhere this autumn. And Gray won't be signed to look menacing on the bench. He'll be getting minutes. Hmmmmm, besides the legions of small forwards who secretly want to be under-sized power forwards (James Johnson, Linas Kleiza), there's Bargnani, uber-rookie Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Davis and the new Reggie Evans' clone, Quincy Acy. Add in Gray and you have eight guys trying to divvy up 96 minutes a night. Bargnani will get his 42. That leaves 54 for the others. Let's say Valanciunas starts out with 24 and Gray gets 16. Stay with me now. That's 14 minutes to share (until Valanciunas starts playing, oh, 36 minutes a night) for Amir Johnson, Davis, Acy and any of the SF candidates.  Now, if YOU were Davis or Amir Johnson, would YOU be putting in a bid for a condo in Toronto right now?

The small forward spot isn't manned to perfection. There are some nights that each of Kleiza, James Johnson, wing-type guards DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields will fill the position and turn in a good game. Part of Dwane Casey's pay is to determine which of that group CAN guard the other team's guy AND provide some offence. But the best thing Colangelo could do for Casey is go get an actual, you know, starter-type small forward. Allegedly, Andrei Kirilenko cooled at the thought of NOT having Nash to play with and upped his salary demands. Gerald Green remains an awfully intriguing candidate. But the trade route seems clearly the path Colangelo is on. Maybe it's just payroll clearing deals to pay Kirilenko's stipend.

James Johnson has been a tease for three years now. Maybe he can catch some other team's eye. Kleiza is a pro and, once again, he's doing the deed in international ball. He'd be useful on any team (although, as a fellow Lithuanian to mentor Valanciunas, he's got a certain cache here in Toronto). The problem is he's a PF in a SF package. And you could make a case that the Raptors actually hope the Knicks match on Fields' offer. Or that DeRozan, clueless on defence and still not a great shooter, might have some trade oomph, what with his spot on the American Olympic Trial practice team. (I do remind you, DeRozan works hard and is actually a pretty good guy. Not sold on his basketball IQ). Add in the aforementioned power forward excess and there are too many chips in Colangelo's possession to think he WON'T be dealing before there's a little nip in the air.

WHEN Colangelo finally gets done dealing and the team assembles for Summer League and then training camp under Casey, THAT'S when Colangelo's off-season can be commented on. It'll still be too early for the rookie evaluations, of which there will be at least three to formulate. But the Raptor plan will stand revealed. To do so before, is to reveal the ignorance of the person claiming the Raptors are NOT play-off bound or are a LOCK to make the play-offs. So, my advice to the call-in show participants, "SHUT UP, Colangelo is doing fine."

So far.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

BOOKS: And Another Thing About Amazon

Yesterday, I mentioned that getting published has never been easier, thanks to Amazon. One of the other effects that publish-on-demand creates is a book that isn't outdated by the time you finally see it in print.

I am reading a book (it's a romance and I'm simply not going to admit to the title so you can make fun of me for what drew my attention to downloading AND reading it). In it, are references to the somewhat crude TV series 2 Broke Girls and to the disappointing movie John Carter. (and no, I was not disappointed despite being a huge collector of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books and a long-time lover of his Martian books).

In the old days, a manuscript would have taken some time to write and re-write under the usually austere gaze of a sharp-eyed editor. Let's say a year to be charitable. The process to actually print and distribute the books would have added a year to two years, 18 months on average, to it's publication date. Somewhere between a year and three years after the writer thought to joke about 2 Broke Girls and John Carter, those humourous bits of dialogue would have finally been exposed to the world.

And the odds are that readers might be scratching their heads. The likelyhood of 2 Broke Girls still airing three years from now is slim. And John Carter, while unsuccessful, will survive on DVD and won't nearly be noteworty as a bomb to the same degree as say, Heaven's Gate or Ishtar. So those references will be lost on the people who buy the book and look over to their DVD pile and see the described bomb in the book and wonder.

But the beauty of instant publishing is that the book comes out and the jokes are still fresh. It's also the issue with instant publishing. If the book DOES become a perennial and keeps selling year after year, fewer and fewer people will be understanding the topical references. Yin and Yang.

Still, I'm enjoying the book for what it is ... a book length blog posting. I get the jokes while I'm reading the book. And that's all that's important to me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

BOOKS: Kindle's Free Books List

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Joe Konrath has been beating the drums over ePublishing on Amazon for a few years now. The fact is, that just about anybody can get a book out to the public at little or no cost. That said, spending a little money on a cover designer and an editor is wise money spent, if the book has the merits to sell to more than just family and friends. The best part of the Amazon process is that it has almost killed off the vanity press, the carny barkers who preyed on writers' need to see their names in print ... usually on the covers of the case of books sitting in their basement.

One of the things Amazon does is produce a cornucopia of free books that are on sale for a few hours or a day or two, every day. I haunt two sites to see the day's freebies at Amazon. There's a curated list at  But my favourite is 

The reason I favour the site is that it shows book covers. I miss that about the way I bookshop these days. I know the author and title and I search Amazon for it. I barely look at the cover before hitting the buy button. And after buying it, I don't stick around to 'browse.' Cuz it's really not browsing, is it? It's linking to known quantity after known quantity. I hadn't 'bought' a book because of its cover in a LOOOOOOONG time. But recently, I have. 

100 Free Books offers up a scrolling list of covers, most of which have a small snippet of descriptive text, I average finding about two covers a day worth investigating. In the early days, it was more, but I've become more discerning in my advancing Amazon Browsing age. Clicking on the cover opens an Amazon tab with the book selected. I can confirm the price is still ZERO (these free deals don't all continue or expire at the same time) and I get the extended description. If, after reading it, I want the book, it's easy enough to obtain. I get a confirming email from Amazon for my order later in the day. I DO read that confirmation, making sure one last time I've gotten a freebie. Then I move it out of my active inbox.

Some things about these free books. MOST serve as an introduction to new authors. In months of monitoring these lists, I've seen recognized authors rarely, excepting classics from the Gutenberg list of out of copyright books. Maybe one or two a week. As for books I've read, a half-dozen in total. Which leads to a funny story.

I finally got around to reading Paul Levine's Solomon vs. Lord, a legal thriller wrapped up in a goofy Floridian mystery that came out in 2005 and immediately went on my want list. I didn't get it until a couple of years ago and I didn't read it until early May of this year. Let me tell you, it's a five-star book. Worth every penny to whoever got it for me as a present (hard to read inscriptions on eBooks and I lost who got it for me specifically. Sorry). So, two more books had come out in the series in 2006, Deep Blue Alibi and Kill All The Lawyers. I went looking for the books and couldn't find them on ANY free list. And even on the free lists guys like me are NOT supposed to know about. 

Stewing about the unavailability of the books for about a half-hour finally forced my hand. I checked out the site and the author's site. I wanted to be sure there weren't some sort of specials I could take advantage of. I mean, it's pretty rare for me to buy a book these days. That's what family and friends and birthdays and Christmas were for. This was May, and my birthday was still the better part of THREE WHOLE MONTHS away!!! So, I broke down and bought the ebooks on Amazon rather than put them on my want list. Three books, because a new book in the series had been released that very morning!! Really!! That morning! And with a name like Habeas Porpoise, it was a no-brainer. Three minutes later and fifteen credit card bucks poorer, I had the full series. 

And of course there is a but ... or two. Deep Blue Alibi was inferior in quality. Had I JUST bought that book, I would have stopped reading the series and saved myself ten dollars. And Kill All The Lawyers was only a bit better. Say average. Sigh. Fortunately, I can report that Habeas Porpoise is a four-star book and almost is worth the 15 dollars by itself. On the other hand (here's the BIG BUT), ALL THREE BOOKS APPEARED ON THE FREE LISTS over the next three weeks. I waited, what, six years to read Solomon vs. Lord, and had I waited just three more weeks, I would have saved my money.

Which is churlish, if my genuine feeling at the time. While it's emminently possible to survive on just free books on the Kindle, the fact is, good books should result in good earnings for their authors. A good book IS worth five bucks. Heck, it's worth 15 bucks. Or more. Then again, not all of the books on the free list are good books. I'd call a lot of them, closer to 'training wheel' books. 

Training wheel books are the ones that probably wouldn't have gotten published five years ago. They're lower in quality because they're the author's first try at this book-writing gig. Which is hard work. I speak from experience. I have a book that could have been put out there by now. But it's not ready for success. So, it's not on Amazon yet. It will be. But it has to get better. 

The book needs another re-write or seven. EVERY read-through finds a typo or an awkward sentence structure. EVERY pass seems to find one place where a character name has not been changed to reflect the current list of character names. Or place names. Plot-lines are STILL being added in and some taken out. It's going to have to be perfect in my mind before I ask people who aren't friends, or friends of friends, to invest their time and money reading the book. 

And I wish some of these authors had similarly anal quality requirements.  Simply put, you get what you don't pay for. Free gives you the chance at something interesting, without the requirement that it meet your previous minimal levels of 'professional book' expectations. There WILL be typos. There WILL be some awkward writing. And in one of the books I read, the ending was just a tad abrupt, as if the author had ridden the idea as far as he was capable of  (or willing) and said, "Let's just call this finished and get it out there." 

Bottom line, I haven't found an author yet to move to my watch list. Nobody has me salivating yet for their next book. But I've actually enjoyed these little tastes of something new and somewhat unformed more than I expected. The books I've guessed wrong on only waste an hour, two at the most. Then I delete them and move onto the next free book. Having no investment in them means I don't continue to waste my time with writing I'm not enjoying.  

There WILL come a day when I discover a new talent. I'm not talking about a Paul Levine or a Dana Stabenow, both of whom have had freebies on the list, and whom I was already familiar with. It'll be somebody new. And then I will have had that rarest of gifts. Another author to enjoy. My birthday is two weeks away. Is it asking too much?  

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

SOFTWARE: I Won't Use It, But I Recommend It

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Over  the years, I have migrated from anti-virus program to anti-virus program. I liked them all better when they were JUST an anti-virus program than a "do everything not nearly as well as just the AV" program suite. In trying to steal business from the firewall people and the parental controls people and the spam people, the AV people lost their focus on what made them worth noticing in the first place.

Years ago, the first AV program of choice to fall to feature bloat was AVG. It had replaced Norton Anti-Virus and McAfee Anti-Virus, not because of the bloatedness of those programs (eventually that did happen), it was the general crappiness and resource hogging of the leading two pro programs that were coasting on reputation at that point. AVG fell hard. It's been years since I recommended AVG as a free alternative to the dollar-happy big two.

I switched, after some research, to Avast! And I've been pretty happy with the product. Indeed, I recommend just about everybody I 'consult' with use it. Even my father, the ultimate 'don't bother me' tester. He just wants to use the computer and doesn't understand the need for anti-virus programs at all. He still won't, even though I'm delivering a new computer to him this week as a combination of belated Father's Day gift, birthday present and excuse not to delouse his current computer. He went a day or two past the free subscription he had to Avast! And the result was almost predictable. White Smoke got onto his computer. I have words for the developers of White Smoke. But Mom insists I refrain from using words like slime buckets to describe people this month.

I wavered a couple of years ago when a Delphi programming specific virus got through Avast! and onto my computer. It was the Stuxnet of its time, but only aimed for those of us who programmed in the Delphi Pascal language. Too specific for general AV programs to catch ... until MONTHS after the fact. I switched at that point to Avira professional.

Now, Avira is a bit more finicky than Avast! But I was in panic mode myself and longed for all the finicky I could get. But long before my subscription to Avira Pro ran out, I ran back to Avast! Pro. Got a good deal and did the switch.

Along with Patrick, the HW guy in my team, I bruited Avast! even to my professional clients. It replaced McAfee on the network of my main client. I guess you could say I was on Avast!'s team. But you would be wrong.

I'm in my last month of my current Avast! subscription and I will NOT be renewing. I still recommend YOU stay with Avast!  But I'm switching to BitDefender Professional. Not sure if it will be JUST the Anti-Virus 2013 or the Internet Security suite. It's ten bucks difference when it goes on sale at Bits Du Jour in  a week or so. (Check daily, there's other deals too) I'm getting sort of tired of Windows 7 Firewall Control saying NO and THEN asking me, rather than the way I used to be familiar with--Zone Alarm's asking me how it should answer, BEFORE answering it. So, a while with the BitDefender firewall is possible.

WHY am I switching when I suggest you don't? I have NO tolerance for being bugged by a program that I pay for. Daily, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, DAILY, I am now being reminded my Avast! subscription has only a few specific number of days left before it expires. It started with a MONTH TO GO!!! I can't turn off, modify or make the notes fade away on their own. I'd get less bother from the free version.

The other reason is Avast!'s sandbox. I don't use it. I have Sandboxie when I want to run things in their own little memory space. What bothers me about the auto sandboxing feature is that turning it off is more than a little work. And that the automatic default setting is auto ... and auto too often means "NO, I won't let the user run the program." At a minimum, you have to change that setting to ASK from AUTO. And frankly, I surreptitiously turn the feature completely off on most computers I deal with. Even if they don't have Sandboxie.

I like choice and I like easy choice. I don't like the way Avast! has moved to deciding too much for the inexperienced user. It's annoying ads, come-ons and begging for you to convert free installations to paid ones (and the tricky way they handle just about every update to facilitate taking another run at the inexperienced). I totally HATE their bleepin' little doomsday clock warning and I think I need some time away from Avast! to see if absence makes the heart grow fonder. It did after the Avira experiment. This time? I don't know. This isn't a panic switch, this is the result of a growing itch that switching scratches. I might not be back.

And while I recommend staying with Avast! (assuming you can handle the constant ads), don't be surprised if I'm back here clanging the bell for a change to BitDefender (or something else). Times are a-changin', as they always are in the world of computer software.

Monday, July 02, 2012

SPORTS: Dreams for Raptors Close to Reality?

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Surprise. Back for more today. That's, if I'm counting correctly, TWO days in a row.

First, on this second posting in a row, let me wish the best of happiest birthdays to my brother Wayne. Hope he's getting some use out of the present I gave him three days ago.

Second, let me segue to the NHL for a second, yesterday being NHL Free Agent Signing Day and ... oh, yeah ... Canada Day.

I like what the Montreal Canadiens did. They've needed a shift disturber who can play a bit and isn't pint-sized. Brandon Prust MIGHT turn into yet another boondoggle from New York. But I have hopes. I like pairing him with Colby Armstrong, an ex-Leaf who will earn out a million-buck contract ... if he's healthy. Didn't happen for him in Toronto, but he's talented enough, for barely more than the NHL minimum. And I like signing pugnacious little Francois Bouillon to a one-year contract to fill out the defensive roster. With a load of young D-Men on their way to Montreal, the once and again Hab defenceman will serve as a bridge. Might even be able to tutor the young'uns in getting the most out of their talent. Next, the crowning touch will be to waive a certain ex-Ranger forward with a HUGE contract. Nice guy Scott Gomez needs to collect his cheques in Hamilton this year. His cap hit is too monstrous for his waning talents.

Okay, back to the Raptors. And the reported three year, 36 Million dollar contract they would like Steve Nash to sign. Them and me. Getting 82 games (plus?) of Nash on local TV with a rooting interest isn't a bad thing to look forward to this winter. And it's not like Nash will do much better at the pay window elsewhere.

And, looking at the possible destinations, I'm not sure that any of the other suggested destinations promise a better winning record, save perhaps for the Knicks, who play in his sort-of summer home of New York. Would a sane man join that team of cretins? Nash might. And would therefore be in line for another MVP award if he could reign in Clueless Carmelo Anthony and Jack-it-up J.R. Smith while getting some revival of talent from one-time teammate Amar'e Stoudemire. Plus he'd still have to find some passes for the rest of the team. He could succeed. And success would undoubtedly lead to yet another MVP, the King be damned. On the other hand, it could also lead Nash to retire ... or have one of those episodes we see on TV that lead directly to the scene after the commercial in the looney bin. Plus, the Knicks would be hard pressed to offer up much more than three million a year for his services. Has Nash ever looked like he wanted a haircut? (Well, there was that one time when he re-upped with Phoenix).

Could Nash take big bucks to play in Brooklyn? With a team devoid of Deron Williams? And with Gerald Wallace and, probably, Brooks Lopez as his running mates? Is THAT a better squad that Toronto, who add Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and Quincy (Reggie Evans with a shot) Acy ... at a minimum? AND a healthy (hopefully) Andrea Bargnani? Plus one other guy, either quality backup Jose Calderon or .... I'll talk about 'OR' in a bit.

Phoenix? Home of the newly drafted next one, Kendall Marshall? Well, sure. But then why is Phoenix so hot to trot over Goran Dragic? I think they've gently closed the door behind their guest great for the last eight years. Dallas? Well, sure they'd like to renew the Nash-Dirk Nowitzki pardnuh-ship from early this century. But Nowitzki's almost as old as Nash. Shawn Marion and Vince Carter help make this a real old-folks home. No centre to boot. Might be nice for this season, but the next two years might rest on bringing in Dwight (I Left My Brain and Heart in the New York Boro) Howard. It could be real unpleasant in the Big D before it gets better in about four years. Steve Nash in Toronto makes a LOT of sense and cents.

The locals need a goosing and Nash would be as good as it gets at that. Even if Nash's arrival means so long Jose. As in Calderon on the move to other climes. The Raptors do NOT need to amnesty Calderon to get Nash inside the cap. The team could opt to do without current backup PG Jerryd Bayless and give up their rights to old SF Sonny Weems, who wants back on this side of the Atlantic after a real good season in Europe. Add their cap hits to the 10 Million Bryan Colangelo accumulated for this summer and Nash fits in. No more moves necessary.

Ahhhh, but more moves ARE necessary. There's the small problem at small forward. James Johnson didn't do the quantum leap in his third year. Neither did DeMar DeRozan at SG. And Linus Kleiza (like Johnson, a better under-sized power forward than a small forward) seems never to regain the full talents he showed at the world championships a few years back, thanks to a leg injury that cost him close to 12 months. The coin COULD drop and Johnson COULD harness that prodigious talent he possesses. And maybe Nash could be the dealer that does that. But the guess is NO, that's not going to happen. And Kleiza would be a better amnesty candidate if he wasn't a fellow Lithuanian to help smooth Valanciunas' experience here in Toronto.

Sooooo, Calderon goes to pay for a small forward. The quickest way to do that would be trade Calderon FOR that small forward. Problem is, there doesn't seem to be a match for that these days. Prior to the Portland drafting of Damian Lilliard, a Nic Batum sign and trade for Calderon was something to consider. Same thing in Brooklyn where Calderon might have replaced a Dallas-bound Deron Williams, at the cost of a just-signed Gerald Wallace. (That one might still be alive). Bigger ticket small forwards like Andre Iguadola and Rudy Gay don't fit into the Calderon pay slot. Not even if you add Ed Davis, as should any Raptor-loving fan. The Lakers WOULD love to trade Ron Artest/Metta World Broken Peace for Calderon, but I'd be happier cheering for Ed Davis for the rest of my life than seeing Crazy Man become a Canuck, even for a second. Dallas might take Calderon straight up for a draft pick if Deron Williams takes the last train to Brooklyn, but that's small (forward) consolation for the Raptors.

 I'm guessing the best chance for the Raptors involves Williams staying in Brooklyn, Calderon being traded to Dallas for draft booty and the Raptors using the money to sign ... Andrei Kirilenko. Yep, it would be audacious to steal Kirilenko away from Brooklyn and his one-time NBA home in Utah, but giving AK-47 all of the saved Calderon money and not force him to play behind Wallace for the Nets, is doable and desirable. Kirilenko had a great season in Europe with CSKA Moscow and is healthy. And a healthy Kirilenko is a good SF option in the NBA. He can do a little bit of everything but seems to take great delight in playing defence. A man after Dwane Casey's heart.

Thus, the Raptors wait out Deron Williams re-signing with the Nets and send Calderon to Dallas as the Mavs' consolation prize, receiving whatever draft picks Dallas is willing to give back. Maybe Ed Davis moves in that trade. Maybe in another. I don't expect much back in return. The reason Davis moves rather than Amir Johnson is because he has a lower ticket, some up side and a shorter guaranteed contract. SOMEBODY out there will think they can teach him to do more than block the ball and do some rebounding. The Raptors cut Sonny Weems and my man Solo (Solomon Alabi) loose. And enough of the rest of the detritus goes to keep Bayless, as it turns out.

If I have the math right, then the Raptors trot out Nash, DeRozan, Kirilenko, Bargnani and Amir Johnson come November. Valanciunas comes off the bench for Johnson eight minutes into the first quarter to massive applause (the game I'm talking about is Toronto's home opener). The rest of the second unit includes James Johnson, Ross, Kleiza/Acy (mostly Kleiza for scoring early) and Bayless. Gary Forbes fills out the active roster that first night. Eventually, Bargnani and Valanciunas start, of course.

The Raptors will also have Jamaal Magloire to be the 13th man and his main job, aside from six fouls against the likes of Howard and Andrew Bynum, will be teach nastiness and professionalism to Valanciunas and Acy. Tu Holloway, the ex-Xavier guard, will sign as third PG. I'd also like to find a way to keep Alan Anderson around, but the cap dollars will be squeezed as is.

Will that team contend in the NBA East? Healthy, sure! But there are the usual red flags for Nash, Kirilenko, Bayless and Bargnani. And it would be nice if James Johnson and DeRozan suddenly turned their hard work and great native athletic ability into something more than they were in the just completed strike-shortened season. It's a LOT of ifs.

Ahhhhh, July in the NBA, when everybody can dream of playoffs and title contenders.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

INTERNET: I'm baaaack!! ... for a month!

[Due to Google Blogger's COMPLETE and UTTER FAILURE to stop the COMMENT SPAMMING BY REGISTERED GOOGLE BLOGGERS (Yeah, I'm talking to the primordial slime that goes by Kevin and variations), all postings from now on will start with this preface. Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

Hey, it's Canada Day, our national celebration of all that's great. But, truth be told, for many Canadians, it's really NHL Free Agent Signing Day!!!! Go Habs!!!!

And, as it turns out, it marks my return to blogging. I'm going to be fairly regular this month since I have to do my Top 25 Most Enjoyed TV Programs from the last 12 months in the middle of it anyways. It's NOT like I don't have things to vent, rant and occasionally enthuse about. So, I'm baaaack, if only on a limited trial basis. People have been telling me writers write and what I've been doing the first half of the year doesn't come close to qualifying.

So, you've been warned. Return to read, but NO CLICKING on comment links. With any luck, my absence will have sent those cockroaches on to other places to plague by now.