Netbook Review

You may or may not have heard of the term “Netbooks”. They seem to be all the rage in personal computing these days. So what are they? Netbooks are the new class of mobile computers that offer an alternative to laptops. Basically, they are a smaller version of the laptop, both in form factor and computing ability to execute resource intensive computing applications. They may very well be the next revolution in mobile computing. Computer manufacturers are now offering a scaled down version of the ubiquitous laptop. The alternative they are offering is one that is smaller, thinner and inexpensive. Inexpensive as compared to the price of a regular laptop and in some cases even less expensive than a mobile phone. So is this scaled down version of a computing platform for you? Are you willing to give up your laptop for a netbook?

Before you decide on purchasing a netbook, it would be good idea to identify and understand your requirements for a mobile computing platform. What do you do with that current laptop of yours? Chances are that you use it more often to surf the web, run office applications for document processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email, etc. If you are a savvy web user, you probably could do all of this on the web. Is there any local application on your laptop that could utilize the entire computing resources of your laptop? This probably is a rarity for most laptop users. Games, photo, video, music editing applications, etc., could be part of the mix but even some of these have online alternatives.

Most netbooks run windows software. The operating system that comes installed is mostly Windows XP. So there is nothing new on the OS front that users would require to learn. Specifications in general include the Intel Atom N series chip with a clock speed rating of 1.6 GHz and installed RAM at 1 GB with the ability to expand to 2 GB. A screen size of 10.1″ TFT may be a limiting factor for some users, but given the clarity of screens today and the primary motivation being a smaller form factor, this could be easily overlooked.

Netbooks are available from most major computer manufacturers most notably from Acer and Asustek. Both Acer and Asustek have a wide product variety and attractive price points, especially suitable for students and business users. Netbooks could serve as the standard computing platform for students in schools, colleges and universities. Small and medium business owners and corporate executives who are out and about, could also benefit from netbooks. Sales force personnel who are constantly on the move visiting customers, could use netbooks to connect with back office applications over the web from a customer location.

Today, more work is being done on bringing netbooks capable of working with different operating systems (e.g. Linux), chip sets etc., to make low cost computing feasible for all user groups. Looking forward into the future, you can expect to see faster, thinner and less expensive computing platforms. Click on Netbook Review to see a list of the latest netbooks available. Compare features and specs to find one that would suit your needs the most.

Need for Speed – The Legacy

There might not be a lot that I remember about my childish years, but there is one thing that I remember loud and clear, and that one thing is the Need For Speed game that had been gifted to me by my father on my 7th birthday. The cover had on it a side view of a car, being pursued by another. For some, it might just have been a picture of a car’s wheel, but for me, it was a queue for doing something out of the ordinary.

Now that I think of it, I remember that it was labeled as one of the most realistic and thrilling games of all times. About after two decades of being hooked to the Need For Speed series, I know that the makers have never failed to reach new heights of realism and thrill. Each time a new edition of the game is released, I have been ceaselessly surprised with the development which has taken place.

So what I have here for you now, is a release replay of the Need for Speed series, a highlight of the benchmarks which have been established by the game’s developers.

1. The Need For Speed:

Featuring closed circuit and point-to-point races, The Need For Speed was the first edition of the arcade racing series. It introduced the concept of being chased by COPS. In this edition, if caught, the first two times would just call for a ticket, however, more than two times and the racer would be busted. It also offered a replay feature allowing players to review races from different camera angles. The game was released in 1996, a small step for the then gamer, a huge step for the developers.

2. Need for Speed II

Released in 1997, the game carried over a few features of the previous edition and in addition, brought in many more features. For instance, games could now choose between the number of laps, the number of AI racers, etc. There were now three modes of play:

a) Single Play – For quick games

b) Tournament – Winning a series of races which unlocked a bonus car.

c) Knock-out – The last one at the end of the lap is eliminated, winning unlocked a bonus track.

The latest feature though was the 360 panoramic view of the cars’ interiors.

3. Need For Speed III – Hot Pursuit

Released in 1998, this edition reinstated Cops into the game play. Not only could racers compete in a cop filled track, they could also choose to become cops themselves. For the first time, a player could be a cop version of a sports car and chase other raisers to become a part of the Hot Pursuit.

4. Need For Speed – High Stakes

Released in 1999, this was the first edition to introduce a vehicle damage system. Player had to now not only think of winning the race, but also drive with care in order to maintain their car’s health. The gaming modes were similar to the previous edition, just that the car physics were improved as the damage was now visible on the vehicles. Also, racing now meant a bet for the pink slip – if a racer won, not only would he/she keep their own car, they would also take way the loser’s car, losing, though, meant giving up on your own car.

5. Need For Speed – Porsche Unleashed

Released in the year 2000, this edition showed further improvements of the game play, creating a more realistic experience in terms of the driving mechanics. For the first time, the game’s concept was based on a single brand – The Porsche. The game also included a Factory mode where racers were tasked to perform stunts like 360 degree spins etc, and the Evolution mode, which was based on three eras which depicted the evolution of the brand.

6. Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2

Released in 2002, the game had better graphics, more realism and improved driving mechanisms. It was also the first Need For Speed to be released on sixth generation gaming consoles such as the PlayStation 2. The cops could now call for backup, have barricades installed on roads, throw out spike strips and also – call helicopters for support. A wide variety of cars and inspirational racer music made this edition one of the best that had been released to date.

7. Need For Speed Most Wanted

Released in 2005, this edition was a new benchmark. Performance upgrades, body modifications, amazingly cool vinyls and a strong story play. For the first time, even those players who had lost interest in the Need For Speed series were brought back with a bang.

8. Need for Speed Rivals

Clearest graphics, the most exotic of cars and an accumulation of all past features of the Need For Speed series makes this edition stand out from all the editions which had been released previously. The stakes were never as higher as in this edition. The game is so awesome, I was forced from inside to treat it with specialty. For it, I purchased a media streaming device for video streaming, allowing me to play the game from my PC straight on to my TV.

Homefront: The Revolution Beta Review

UPDATE: The open beta began just a little while ago and it’s extremely hard to find a match. The game somehow is running worse than the stress test beta I played a couple weeks ago and it also looks the same. Luckily there is one new map with the open beta. It’s fairly big and probably my favorite mission of the three available. It involves your squad infiltrating an enemy base then following two transport vehicles to an evac spot. It has the most variety in gameplay from stealthily(or gun ho) attacking the K.P.A. base to playing defense while moving through a crumbling city. One thing I have to say is that the atmosphere in this new map is great and you feel in this world. That would have to be the best takeaway from this beta. I’m still looking forward to the assumed more fleshed out and beautiful looking campaign.

ORIGINAL REVIEW:

Guerrilla warfare is the name of the game here in the multiplayer cooperative beta for the long awaited sequel to Homefront. The beta brings two co-op missions available to play with three of your friends on three different difficulties. While I’ve only played on easy mode, I must say it is very challenging. I could only imagine what hard is like, but for the sake of playing through each mission, I played on easy.

First up is graphics and performance. The beta doesn’t look all that impressive, nor does it run well. But it is a beta, specifically a stress test. The actual beta doesn’t start for another two weeks. I’m sure the technical issues will be fixed by the actual release date. The graphics here though aren’t really jaw dropping. Things seems really washed out and textures don’t add any depth to what’s in the world. Character models also look a bit out dated. Now I definitely think this won’t be representative of the single player graphics, which actually look very good.

There are two missions that are playable in the stress test, I don’t know if more will be added for the full beta or any other modes. I’m hoping for a full fledged competitive multiplayer like the first game had, but I won’t hold my breathe. One mission sees you and your buddies going to check out what a K.P.A. Militia is up to near your hideout, then things get a bit sticky. You retreat back to multiple standoff points to give friendly A.I. a chance to escape and plant bombs on the hideout to destroy any information that could be useful to the enemy. This mission was pretty challenging at first and actually took teamwork, I died multiple times on this mission.

The second mission sees your squad going on the offensive and charging in on a full fledge assault. Your goal is to hack certain things throughout a fairly large map, much more open than the first. There is even a vehicle segment that changes up the gameplay. Overall these missions were fun to play through and see to the end. But I honestly couldn’t tell you if I want to go and replay them. I want to try them out on hard and unlock a few more weapons and attachments, but there’s not enough in this stress test build that makes me want to spend time with it. I put in two hours with the two mission and am ready to move on. There are mini objective you can try to complete that are shown in the loading screens where you can earn more XP, but your team must be compliant.

You start the beta off by making a character. You pick out of ten appearances, which are all very basic. Then you choose a background, there were eleven made available. You could choose to have been a cab driver or a pharmacist for example, I chose a gangbanger. Each background gives you a primary skill tree that better fits your character and play style. There are four skill trees with four tiers, with varying amounts of skills in each. The skills range from downed times on looting and crafting, to gaining more XP. I hope the single player uses a lot of the same mechanics, but in a deeper fashion.

There were thirteen primary weapons and three secondary weapons that can be unlocked. I think that is a decent amount for a co-op mode and each weapon has attachments. There were also plenty of clothing options for your character to unlock. The unlocking system is very different from what I am used to. You gain XP and then can use it to unlock one of the four crates that give you random things. There is a gear, attachment, ordnance, and weapon crate. Each gives you something from that category, ordnance being weapon and attachments. This unlock system feel natural with the game’s themes. You in an occupied Philadelphia and have to take what you can get.

There is a looting and crafting system that feels like it could use some depth. I would rather just pick up these items around the world than finding parts to make them. It feels unneeded, considering there aren’t a lot of places to find these parts. There is a hacking tool, distraction, bomb, and molotov that can be made, each are very useful in combat. These things don’t restock after every match, it seems like they carry over with you.

Lastly I want to talk generally about the gameplay and what I liked and disliked about the beta so far. The movement feels off, everything you do feels a bit clunky and it’s very relevant when you are trying to get on a ledge or get in cover. I hope this can be smoothed out before the final release. Enemies take the perfect amount of damage, but hit detection feels off as well. It doesn’t feel satisfying enough or brutal. Maybe put a sound in that sounds like bones crushing by your bullet, not like shooting pillows. I also noticed there is a lack of auto aim. This isn’t a complaint at all, but I am just curious about it. It definitely makes the game a bit more challenging. There’s also a mechanic that when you are crouched near cover you can peek and blindfire. It adds nicely to how the combat feels.

Overall this is clearly a beta and work in progress. Hopefully the developers fix some of the kinks and make the game run much smoother. There’s a decent amount of content here in the beta that could keep you playing, but I probably won’t hop back into it until the main beta starts. I certainly had a good time, I think the combat feels very dirty and personal, which is a huge plus. While I probably won’t be putting a lot of time into co-op missions in the final build, I can’t wait to play the single player campaign and hopefully some kind of competitive multiplayer.

Latest Sony Ericsson W300i Review Posted

Since Sony Ericsson first introduced its Walkman cell phone line last year, music-friendly phones have had mixed success in the United States. Though they’re lauded by users and critics alike, together with us, U.S. carriers, haven’t clamored to include the handsets in their lineups. Sure, Cingular offers the W600i, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Sony Ericsson no doubt has taken notice of this discrepancy, which may be a reason behind the Sony Ericsson W300i. While previous Walkman phones were packed with the most expensive features, the W300i aims to be a low-end Walkman phone. Although you still get Bluetooth, a VGA camera, and the full range of Walkman music compatibility, the on the whole effect is a step down from models like the Sony Ericsson W810i. We weren’t crazy about some design elements, but call caliber was good, and we commend Sony Ericsson for bringing mobile music to the masses. No carrier was set at the time of this review, so the GSM handset will run you $299.

So far, Sony Ericsson has stuck to swivel and candy bar designs for its Walkman phones, so we were glad to see the company roll out a flip phone in the series. From the exterior it’s quite elegant; our version came in black, but You can get it in white too. It doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to the company’s few other flip phones; we like the clean lines, the looped antenna, and the textured covering on the bottom of the front flap. The phone is moderately compact at 3.5 by 1.8 by 1.0 inches, so it’s easily put in most pockets. It’s also quite light for its size at 3.3 ounces, but the trade-off is that the all round construction feels just a bit flimsy. We didn’t have any problems when using the phone, but it felt almost too light in our hands.

In the center of the front flap is the postage stamp-size outside screen. Although monochrome, it’s quite bright and displays the usual information, not to mention the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where accessible). you are not able to change the backlighting time, but a quick flick of the volume rocker will activate the display for inspection. Above the screen is the VGA camera lens and a self-portrait mirror (but no flash), while the speaker is on the top of the rear face. The aforementioned volume control is on the left spine along with a control for activating the music player and playing and pausing music. The infrared port is on the right spine, while the connection port for the charger, the wired headset, and the USB cable is on the bottom of the handset. One design flaw of the new Walkman phone connection port is that you can’t connect two cables at once.

Inside the phone you’ll find the 1.75-inch (128×160) inside display. Sony Ericsson always does a good job with its displays, and the W300i is no exception. Radiant and vivid, it displays all 262,144 colors beautifully and is perfect for viewing photos and videos, playing games, and scrolling through the user-friendly menus. You can change the brightness but not the font size or backlighting time.

On the other hand, Sony Ericsson doesn’t have a great track record with navigation controls and keypad buttons. While it made positive strides with the W810i, the W300i shows a slip back to bad habits. The five-way toggle is big and doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, but it’s flush with the surface of the phone and thus takes time to get used to. The flat soft keys, clear button, and back control are spaced far from the toggle, but they’re quite small given the phone’s size. Also, while this isn’t a bad thing, hold in mind that most Sony Ericsson phones do not have dedicated Talk and End keys.

The keypad buttons are worse, on the other hand. Designed similar to overlapping circles, they are flat with the surface of the phone and slippery, which made for a few misdials. Enen more, they don’t lend themselves to quick texting. On the upside, they have a bright orange backlight. Below them are a dedicated power control and a button for activating the Walkman player, but these are much too little. The Memory Stick Micro slot is under the plastic battery cover, but thankfully, you don’t have to remove the battery, to get at it.

The W300i has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, business and home street addresses, a birthday date, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can classify contacts into groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or attach them one of 28 (40-chord) polyphonic ring tones. Support for MP3 ring tones is present as well, but be informed that caller ID images do not appear on the outter display. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice dialing, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a timer, a stopwatch, and a code memo for storing passwords and other secure information. There’s also a recorder for both voice memos and calls; length is sparing by on hand memory. Although the W300i is considered an entry-level Walkman phone, it still comes with a pretty good number of business-friendly applications. Inside you’ll find a speakerphone, PC syncing for contacts and calendar appointments, a newsreader for accessing RSS feeds, USB cable support, and full Bluetooth for not only connecting to a headset but also for wirelessly exchanging files and electronic business cards. And like many other Sony Ericssons You can use the phone as a modem and use the Bluetooth feature as a remote control to connect with other Bluetooth devices.

The W300i’s Walkman music player doesn’t differ much from the previous handsets in the series. It supports a broad range of formats, inclusive of MP3, MP4, 3GP, AAC, and WAV files. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where You can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. Settings consist of album/song shuffle and loop, Sony’s Mega Bass, and an equalizer. Toggling between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up and mash the dedicated music key, and your song picks up from the point you left off. There’s an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone powered off, and You can minimize the player while using other functions. There are stereo speakers also but still no stereo Bluetooth profile.

Music capacity is sparing by the accessible memory. Internal space is somewhat tiny–just 20MB–and have in mind, that since it’s shared with other applications, your actual storage space may be less. We promote investing in a Memory Stick Micro for extra space; our test phone came with a 512MB card. Getting music on the phone is relatively easy. As well as using the included USB cable and Disc2Phone software, You are able to send tunes via e-mail, a multimedia message, Bluetooth, or infrared port. You also get an FM radio with 20 presets, While you must use it with a headset, which acts as an antenna. You can set it to automatically scan and program Radio Data System info from stations that digitally broadcast their names and call letters, and You are able to use the radio as an alarm clock.

Since the W300i is meant for a more or less average cell phone user, Sony Ericsson included a VGA shooter instead of a megapixel model. You are able to take pictures in three resolutions (640×480, 320×240, 160×120) and choose from a variety of editing options, together with four color effects, a night mode, two quality settings, a self-timer, 19 fun frames, and a brightness control. There’s also a digital zoom, which varies by the pictures size–at the lowest resolution it’s 4X, but it’s not on hand at the highest resolution. Other special picture effects include a burst mode for taking four shots in rapid order and a nifty panorama choice. For audio effects, You are able to choose from four shutter sounds, but there’s no silent choice. The camcorder takes MPEG-4 videos in two resolutions (176×144 and 128×96) with sound and offers a comparable set of editing alternatives. Clip length is capped at two minutes for multimedia messages; otherwise length is sparing by the available memory.

Although we realize the camera is a VGA, picture quality was rather inadequate. Shots were blurry and grainy and colors washed out. Likewise, video quality was run-of-the-mill. Still, the W300i does offer a few creative applications for the amateur photographer. With Photo DJ, You can add one of six fun frames; inverse the shot’s orientation; and use various image effects such as brightness, contrast, tint control, and photo marking. There’s also a Video DJ, and if that is not satisfying, more picture-, video-, and multimedia-editing options are on the software CD, along with QuickTime, Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition, and a multimedia message composer. Moving photos and videos off the phone is painless. You are able to send them in a multimedia message, import them via Bluetooth, or the infrared port, or use the included USB cable and software.

You can personalize the W300i with an array of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. As always, You are able to purchase more choices and ring tones from Sony Ericsson via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for making your own ring tones and a quirky application called Music Match that plays guitar chords and piano notes. Though it was fun, it wasn’t tremendously proficient. Gamers can enjoy three Java (J2ME) titles, Neopets, QuadraPop, and PuzzleSlider, with additional titles accessible for purchase.

We tested the quad-band, dual-mode (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Sony Ericsson W300i world phone in San Francisco using Cingular’s service. Call quality was quite good with remarkable clarity and volume. We had no trouble getting a signal and rarely were met with static or interference. Callers reported the same conditions, and they could make out us under most conditions. Speakerphone caliber was slightly worse–voices sounded hollow, but it was fair as a whole. We connected to the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset and was met with admirable call caliber too. The EDGE connection was sufficiently speedy for transferring small files.

Using the included Disc2Phone software and USB cable, which also charges the phone, we tried loading music onto our W300i. transfer time was relatively slow at 30 seconds for a 5MG song, so you’ll have to be patient for a large import. As a whole, on the other hand, the software is easy to install and exhibited few of the quirks we found on previous models. And another thing, the phone didn’t switch off automatically when we disconnected the USB cable. Music quality was on a par with that of other Walkman phones: clear and crisp, Though one transferred song had some very minor hiccups. The W300i won’t replace a stand-alone MP3 player, but it does the job admirably for short stints.

Our one real disapproval was that the phone had a tendency to freeze during normal operation, such as when we were going through a menu or when we were using the USB connection. More than one time, we had to restart, but more often, the phone unfroze after a couple seconds.

The W300i has a rated talk time of 9 hours and a presumed standby time of 16.5 days. Our talk-time test result came in a little short at 8 hours, but that’s still respectable. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sony Ericsson W300i has a digital SAR rating of 1.42 watts per kilogram.

The Ballet Bible

When I first purchased this book I thought that it would be something fun to share with my students. I collect all things related to dance, knicknacks, posters, DVDs…hence books. When I stumbled upon the eBook online I thought at the very most that it would be a nice addition to my collection of souvenirs. I am a dance teacher and volunteer with work at a dance competition and I am always looking for things about the ‘world of dance’, I just love anything to do with dancing. I am a very big fan of So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars. I can’t wait for them to start again.

So when I actually had the opportunity to read the Ballet Bible I was presently surprised! It surpassed my expectations (which hadn’t been very high considering the sales pitch). I had actually found a true gem, an eBook about ballet with solid, valid teaching techniques. The book has over 200 pages of VALID information – SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

Many of the students I teach are heavily into dance competitions such as American Dance Awards, Starpower, Headliners and all the other big ones that I’m sure many of you are aware of. So they are not always interested in how to become a ballerina, but I always try to engrain in them during their dance training that it isn’t about how to become a prima ballerina that is important. It is the solid foundations of ballet training that support everything and anything they do related to dance. Ballet training is what truly separates the great dancers from the weak or mediocre. So they roll their eyes at me after one of my lectures and begrudgingly trek upstairs to the ballet room. Well there is one problem – finances. It is true that not all of my students can afford the extra classes that we offer at our school and of course fall short in their training. I must admit, although it is unfortunate, that these particular students don’t always do as well when it comes time for dance competition season. Such a shame.

Well now we have – The Ballet Bible! Although you cannot of course compare this to an actual class it is a great study guide for those who want to put in some extra hours at home. If you can only afford one class a week but want to read up on some tips for improving your dance competition game or honestly improve your ballet technique as a whole, this is a great purchase.

Section 1 – “The 3 Simple Rules of a Prima Ballerina” is the pdf version of the eBook which contains over 200 pages of text, pictures and complex illustrations of ballet positions and movements. This part of the eBook tells you how to perform the moves correctly and also illustrates common mistakes that most people make when learning. This is the best part of this section of the material. Sometimes dancers really need to be shown the wrong way in order to correct themselves and conduct the move correctly. Excellent!

Section 2 – “Audio Terms and Definitions” is the audio software package. This section offers a search and find feature that enables you to find any ballet term and learn its corresponding meaning. For each exercise, dance step, position, and/or pose, all you have to do is point and find. The reader also learns the correct French accents for specific terms – it is that detailed. After you click on the term you can hear the correct definition, it is a great feature! This is exactly like hearing a dance teacher give instruction in the classroom.

Section 3 – “Video Demonstrations” is a collection of over 60 videos on ballet technique. That’s right, 60 videos, that is equivalent to 60 different classes. If you actually had to pay for 60 dance classes you can imagine the cost you would incur. Now you can put on your dance shoes and follow along in your living room. Being able to watch and imitate is an invaluable tool that The Ballet Bible offers!

Now all the positives being said of course there are the cons.

Being in a dance class with an experienced, qualified teacher is irreplaceable. With an eBook the “hands-on” aspect of dance is non-existent to say the least. You don’t have the teacher physically correcting you and manipulating the student’s body into the correct positions. This is something you can only get in a classroom. But the alternative is nothing at all.

So – THE BALLET BIBLE is the best compromise! It’s author, Anita Leembruggen, is a trained dancer and educator in ballet. She has spent years in the studio and has brought this book to you to share with your students and/or children in the home. Now everyone can learn ballet, it will be as simple as turning on the computer. So put on your ballet shoes and dance along with Anita in THE BALLET BIBLE!

Good luck at all of your dance competitions this year!

If you would like a copy of the Ballet Bible for you teaching library, please go to www.balletbibleinfo.com [http://www.balletbibleinfo.com]

Brooklyn – A Movie

Watching a movie with which you feel a connection, to a character or to the story, is a different experience than just watching a movie. And if the movie is a good one, that connection makes it all the better. Such was the case with the movie Brooklyn.

It begins in the early 1950s in Ireland, a poor country in those days, where lack of opportunity for the country’s young is causing them to seek it elsewhere, primarily in America. Eilis Lacey is one of those young people, wanting to escape not only the limitations but the narrow life Ireland offers. Urged on by her older sister who wants something better for her, Eilis is yet reluctant to leave behind her mother and sister, the only family she has, to make the lonely trip by herself across the ocean, to an America that holds out promise to her but is also an unknown and strange place where she knows no one. But make the journey she does, and this is the point where the movie grabbed me.

Ireland in its poverty in the 1950s was not that different from the Ireland of 1928, the year my father left. He was eighteen, the same age as her, and he made the same journey, also alone, leaving behind his father and an older sister and the only home he’d ever know in Cork. The similarities don’t stop there. As many, perhaps most, Irish did, he left from the same port as she, from the southern Ireland town of Cobh, to make the same trip across the Atlantic. Watching her during the long crossing, seasick and lonely and full of fears as she was, my eyes teared up as I projected images of my father into the same situation. Were his experiences the same as hers? Was he throwing up all the long way across the rough seas? Was he full of the same loneliness and doubt as she? Those comparisons and the performance of the young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who inhabits the character of Eilis with every part of her being, made the movie all the more poignant to me.

Her situation, once she arrives in Brooklyn, is different from my father’s, yet they are similar enough. Father Flood, an Irish priest in America, sponsors her for entry into the New World and secures for her a place in a rooming house for women, run by a woman from the Old Country. He lines up a job for her in a department store, and he offers her his counsel and spiritual comfort. For my father’s part, he had an older brother by nine years who had made the same journey from Ireland, and who sponsored him. My father lived with him after arrival and landed a job, with the brother’s help, as a laborer, a first step in learning a trade.

As Eilis’s story progresses, her outlook improves, though she misses her mother and sister fiercely and writes them all the time. With a career in mind beyond that of a sales clerk in a department store, she takes night classes in accounting and becomes more than proficient at it. She attends a dance with several of the young women of her boarding house, and there meets a young man named Tony, an Italian-American who is polite and decent in a way seldom seen in young men of today. He falls for her immediately, while her affection for him grows more slowly. At first they keep arms-length company. He takes her for an outing to Coney Island and a playful day at the beach. She meets his family at a dinner in their home. He tells her of his version of the American dream, of starting a business and building a home in a part of Long Island still covered with sand dunes and beach grass. He asks her to marry him. By then she is in love with him, beginning to see that his dreams could be hers too.

Then she learns from Father Flood of a family tragedy back in Ireland, and Eilis is compelled to return, a short visit is her promise to Tony. But once there, she slips back into her old life, though in better circumstances. Her mother convinces her to stay longer than planned, so she can attend the wedding of a best friend. Eilis takes a temporary job as an accountant in a factory, earning a decent wage now. Through the friend, she meets a young man and starts seeing him casually, reluctant at first but gradually warming to him. As she lingers on, the new job and the deepening relationship with the man has you wondering: Will she forget Tony and stay in Ireland now that she is immersed in the familiar life of her homeland, but with better prospects? Then an incident with the spiteful woman Eilis previously worked for in a small grocery in her village brings her situation to a head. “I’d forgotten,” she says to the woman, referring to the constricted, moralistic attitudes of Irish life, one of the reasons she’d left in the first place.

Brooklyn is a movie worth seeing multiple times, for the heart-rending story, and for the great acting of Saoirse Ronan as Eilis, Jim Broadbent as the kindly, wise-to-the-ways-of-the-world Father Flood, and Julie Walters as Mrs. Keogh, the caring Irish landlady of Eilis’s boarding house, who uses wit and a sharp tongue as she watches over her girls. On several counts Brooklyn is an Oscar-worthy movie.

Nubia Z11 Review

With the release of the One Plus 3T, Nubia had to build a phone that would not only bring in the loyal crowd that they’ve gathered over the years, but they also had to make sure that this phone would be good enough to outshine the One Plus 3T completely and put them back on the market as the number one brand on the market. After a couple of months of constant research they came up with the Nubia Z11, a smartphone that looks very promising at first sight. Is it good enough to surpass its lifelong rival, the One Plus 3T, or is it going to take the 2nd place once more? Let’s see.

1. The Design

First of all we need to mention the fact that the Nubia Z11 is one of the very few bezel-less smartphones you can buy these days, which instantly makes it an incredible device to have. This little detail made most of the youngsters fall in love with the design instantly, and once you’ve got their attention, you’ve practically already achieved the impossible. Secondly, the phone’s body is made entirely out of metal, which gives it a very sturdy feel in the palm. The more rounded metal frame also makes the phone easier to hold, which was again, another great design choice made by Nubia. Another really amazing part about the phone is the color combination on the back. Two gold lines run along the top and the bottom of the phone’s back, and the fingerprint scanner is also golden. The camera module is red, which really sticks out, but not in a negative way. Needless to say, the phone’s very pretty.

2. The display

The display is simply put amazing on this phone. The 5.5 inch FHD panel looks incredible from all angles; it’s elegant, vibrant and very pleasing to the eye. Although the colors are a bit oversaturated, the display still manages to look incredible. Overall the display is very good, especially for people that watch a lot of videos on their phones.

3. The performance

Although Nubia phones have been known for the experience more than the performance, the Z11 manages to perfectly encapsulate both needs in just one slim device. Thanks to its Snapdragon 820 SoC and 6GB of RAM this phone can practically run every app on the market. It’s fast, responsive and overall it offers a very good experience for both the social media lovers and the hardcore gamers. Overall the Z11 surpasses the OnePlus 3T in this department. The only problem the Z11 has is the heating temperature. If you’re one of those people that likes to play games for hours or one of those people that binge watches movies for a longer period of time then you might find the phone to be a bit too rocket-like during these sessions. The Z11 can actually push higher than 42 degrees Celsius in less than 15 minutes if you plan on watching a 4k video. Of course, it wasn’t really meant for this type of a workout, but still, this is a new generation phone, so people expected a lot more from it on this department.

4. The camera

This is where the compliments stop. Nubia phones have always been known for their cameras, most of the Nubia devices had incredible cameras, these cameras rivaled the flagship phone cameras, but the Z11 is quite different. The pictures look blurry and a bit too white at times, you flinch only for one millisecond and your picture looks absolutely terrible. The camera is not even great, it’s just embarrassing. It’s a shame, outside of a few minor flaws if it weren’t for this camera the phone would have been almost perfect.

5. The battery

The battery sort of redeems the phone a little bit. It’s a 3000 mAh battery which lasts for about 5-7 hours, depending on how much you try to use it. It’s not perfect, but it does surpass its rival’s battery. The OnePlus 3T’s battery lasts for about 4-5 hours, which seems to be that phone’s definitive flaw.

The Verdict:

Overall the phone is very impressive. It’s incredibly beautiful, it has a stunning design, the display is gorgeous and the performance is very enjoyable. If it weren’t for its battery the phone would completely surpass the OnePlus 3T, but because of it it’s kind of a tie. In the end it comes down to this: If you prefer the camera over the battery life then choose the OnePlus 3T, if it’s the other way around then the Nubia Z11 is the perfect choice for you. Other than that, the phone shines in most departments, so it’s a very good choice. If you’re in need of a good and trustworthy phone then the Nubia Z11 is perfect for you.

Tato – Book Review

Title: . Tato

Interesting Read . Recommended . 3 stars

The Review

The narrative opens as seven-year-old Michael endeavors to ignore Nicole, but there she. Again his sister came barging into his room to insist again that his Grandfather has died. Impossible, Gankum would never have gone away and left him, especially without saying goodbye. But, here she is, and she just won’t stop saying it. Michael has a plan, he will make a baby brother or sister from a potato. He did hear Mama telling Nicole that special babies come from special potatoes. Nicole can only roll her eyes at the suggestion. Michael is not surprised when Gankum steps into his room, after all, his grandfather isn’t dead to Michael. Gankum often comes to chat with Michael when the seven year old is alone in his room. Armed with Mama’s overheard recipe/formula of rosebud for girl, walnut for boy, rainwater, peach fuzz and more Michael accompanies Mama to the store to get a perfect potato. Nicole warns Michael that the magic will only work if he follows the formula exactly, and, he must not spill any of it on anything. Michael is horrified to find a few drops of the formula has spilled on the mirror laying next to the container where he has placed his potato. From there the story builds as Michael and Nicole and their parents are caught up in the little boys imagination and surprising power. With the help of Tato, the potato being Michael has invoked Michael and Nicole come to grips with life as it is including the need for acceptance of the death of a beloved grandfather.

Tato is offered as a children’s book targeting the 7-13 age market and is written in part to help children deal with death. The action packed tale of Michael and Tato and how Michael is finally able to adjust to the death of his grandfather presents a number of solid scientific facts. Habits of insects and spiders, and mirror image are compelling. The real is mixed with imaginary happenings. The tale presented in a fast paced setting where danger lurks at every turn. I believe the book is better suited to the 10 -13 market than younger children who may well be frightened by some of the chilling details of the mirror and critters within.

The notion that a seven-year-old would be having problems dealing with the death of a beloved grandfather is credible, and the notion that the child sees himself as larger than life and able to overcome evil is a trait well developed in children this age. Writer Gogolewski’s characterization of Michael is believable, her rendering of Nicole as the bored teeny-bopper is also well done. I was a little put off by the seeming fog the Tate parents operate in during the account. Papa Tate did redeem himself in my eyes a bit when he sat down to chat with Michael about Gankum’s death, however, I would hope most parents would be more aware of the stress their young child was feeling than what appeared with Mama and Papa Tate.

I like the notion of empowering children, however, seven-year-olds are often very unaware of their limitations and can be easily encouraged into dangerous situations in which they are not able to cope. I would like to see the author encourage the notion of power, but also keep it in the realm of this story is imagination, not as a mirror world that might actually take place. The line between real and make believe may be blurry for a young child.

As parents we DO tease our children now and then about finding them under a rock, out in the cabbage patch, or maybe even developing them with a special formula from potatoes. On the other hand, thirteen-year-old Nicole and Mama chatting about potatoes and being overheard by Michael set in place the focus for the story to follow. Mama appears clueless when Mike wants a potato, and other ‘formula’ items…. Yegods, it was her formula. And I don’t know a thirteen-year-old who does not know where babies come from. I would like to have seen the writer present the chat with some chuckles rather than in such a way that a seven-year-old might take it for fact.

The issue of the notion of Santa Claus being an untruth is also addressed in the work. For this reason I will not use the book in my own fourth grade and cannot recommend for children K – 4. As a teacher I have found; the younger the child the more we find belief in Santa, and even in my own fourth grade, 9 -10 year olds, last year the belief was split just about half… as a teacher that is an issue NOT for me to decide. Santa and other similar beliefs are between parent and child and not for me to agree or destroy.

Tato will likely tickle the fancy of the ‘sophisticated’ upper middle grade reader.

Recommended for the upper middle grade reader, not recommended for the 7 – 9 set.

Genre: Fantasy Adventure/Middle Grade Readers

Author: .Kathy Gogolewski http://www.TRI-Studio.com

Line/Publisher Wings ePress Inc. 403 Wallace Court Richmond, KY 40476-0038

http://www.wings-press.com

ISBN 1-59088-486-8

Birthday Cupcakes’ Unique Originality

Birthday parties have been traditionally celebrated with none other than a birthday cake and a candle to top it all. This has been the ideal birthday set – up of natal day every seen the time that cake was used to be offered to the goddess of the moon in the ancient Greece. With the advances of technology and time being dynamic, people themselves tend to change in the process. People lose track and hold of old tradition and tend to incorporate their very own twists in party choices. One of the best birthday party ideas is getting rid of the huge and costly birthday cake and replaced it with the simple, cute, and fun cupcakes.

Considering the drastic rise and fall in the cost of flour and sugar for generations that had come, birthday cupcakes are sure win for tight budget families to celebrate a birthday or two within their circle. With cupcakes, people can definitely have a fair share of food compared to the cake which sometimes becomes the source of children fighting over that greater slice. Also with cupcakes both children and adults can definitely have fun. It is less time – consuming and provides an easy party clean – up afterwards. For those who still are having doubts of having birthday cupcakes to replace the traditional cake here are some of the tips in where a birthday party can be assembled with a mere cupcake or two.

First, one must come up with the different ingredients to whip up the most delicious mini cakes. If you are a baker in your family, then you could easily produce these birthday cupcakes. But for those of you who are having trouble in actually following recipes, it is easy to grab pre – mixed cupcake ingredients in your local supermarket. Now, isn’t that convenient? Aside from this pre-mixed cupcake ingredient, one needs to buy cupcake papers and two cupcake tins. The different cake mixes yield about 24 cupcakes while these cupcake tins make out a dozen of cupcakes at a time. The rest of the ingredients depends on what decorative materials are needed to make you cupcake captivating and mouth-watering. These may come in the form of sprinkle, mini chocolate slices or chunks, assorted candies, or anything that would definitely be incorporated in a white frosting. Now, with the ingredients and materials being already prepared, all you have to do is wait for the little ones and their tagging adults to arrive at your party.

Second, generate your birthday cupcake party into an interactive activity. Kids do love play with things that they find curious and cupcake making or decorating would definitely drive them crazy with excitement. Of course, in order to commence the birthday cupcake party to begin, one needs to thoroughly make a background check – up on the participants and decide from there the strategy of how the party would flow. For children age four and up let them decorate their own cupcakes in the party. Whip up white frosting and place it in several bowls, others may be mixed with food coloring to give additional colors to each cupcake frosting. Now, a plate and a spoon are the only armors that these excited little ones need in order to scoop and spread the frosting. Then let them feel free to choose whatever edible decorative material should embellish their very own cupcakes. As for children ages eight and up, the competitive side of their youth should be developed in a fun and friendly cupcake tower making contest. Aren’t these great way to enjoy a birthday party without putting too much planning and money on the line?

Third, an after party fix can easily be done. Children may go home with paper bags containing their made up cupcakes and a few more. The clean up can be done in an instant. The most important part of all is the smile and numerous thank you that you would receive from your own child for giving him or her the best  unique  birthday party there is.

These greatly shed some light that deviation from tradition can be for the betterment of many. This is the opportunity for parents to actually bond with their children and get to know them more as they would easily grow within your sight. Birthday cupcakes can truly bring out the best in people within the party. No matter how many calories you can gain from them, they are all worth it when you look back in those times that you truly enjoyed your and your child’s natal day.

Google Nexus 5X Review

LG and GOOGLE rejoined this year and released the Nexus 5X, a handset that promises to live up to the expectations and deliver the experience we all expected from the Nexus 6. So was the Nexus 5X able to meet all the expectations, thus making it the real successor to the Nexus 5? Let’s find out.

Design

There’s no doubt that LG can make great looking phones with premium designs, but looking at the Nexus 5X you immediately see that it doesn’t fit in the premium realm.

So no glass and metal, you only get a lightweight polycarbonate case, with a matte finish, soft rounded corners, smooth curved edges and a thin metal frame. The phone is not slippery, it’s easily manageable with one hand and it is incredibly comfortable to hold.

But the rounded edges and the overall shape are not the only factors that render a comfortable phone manipulation, the Nexus 5X is also lightweight (weighs 4.8 ounces) and has a screen size of 5.2 inches (the phone measures 6.0×2.8×0.3 inches).

The rear panel doesn’t retain fingerprints, it has rounded edges but it doesn’t really look solid, it feels like it may pop off at any time. The front of the Nexus 5X is home to the display, which is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and around the display bezel, there is a small rim.

However, the buttons feel and placement are a bit of a disappointment. While the original Nexus 5 had smooth, high quality buttons with a rubbery texture, the Nexus 5X has two buttons on the right side, the volume controller and the power button, that both are small and feel cheap and superficial.

But that’s not all, the Nexus 5 had all these small details that enhanced the design (like the metal around the lens) that you just don’t find on the Nexus 5X, giving it a more plain look.

On the bottom of the Nexus 5X there is an USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a lot of debating about the new USB technology, most being against it. We consider that this change has to happen and although change is always hard, the sooner the better.

The Nexus 5X lacks some aspects that the Nexus 5 had, it’s clear that GOOGLE and LG cut some corners in order to make the 5X cheaper, but overall it doesn’t seem too much of a compromise, unless you prefer glass and metal.

Display

The Nexus 5X features a 5.2in IPS LCD display (the same technology used on its predecessor), a resolution of 1920x1080p, a pixel density of 432ppi and a really wide viewing angle.

Colours are a lot more balanced and more accurate, it has excellent contrast, blacks are deep and whites are very bright, making the display visible under direct sunlight, having a peak brightness of 486 nits.

Although the screen is vibrant, comparing it with other smartphones, it may look a bit dull.

But, we really enjoyed this display, it’s a lot better than the Nexus 6 and it has managed to create a good internal balance in order to deliver a good visual experience.

Performance

Inside the case, the 5X sports a powerful 64-bit six-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset (a 1.8GHz dual-core Cortex A57 and a 1.44GHz quad-core Cortex A53).

It also has an Adreno 418 GPU, 2GB RAM (while it’s bigger brother, the Nexus 6P has 3GB RAM), 16 or 32GB internal storage memory and, unfortunately, there is no microSD slot.

A lot of handsets have migrated to 2 or 4GB, while the 5X has only 2GB of RAM and it may be enough for now, but in a year or so it may not, so the phone is not exactly a good solution in the long term. Obviously, an extra GB of RAM would have added to the price tag.Thanks to the good quality hardware, the Nexus 5X performs really well. Navigating through Nexus 5X interface is fast and fluid, it handles games really well, there is no stutter and can even handle demanding 3D games (like Riptide GP2).

But, although it’s fast and responsive most of the times, sometimes it does stutter from time to time and an occasionally restart should get things back to normal. Also, booting up can take up to 50 seconds, which is a lot but understandable (2GB RAM).

Still, overall, the performance is pretty smooth.

Software

The Nexus 5X runs a clean, stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which features subtle changes, focusing more on functionality and less on visuals, so it’s not as flashy as the Lollipop redesign. Running a clean version of Android is usual for Nexus devices (no bloatware!!).

So yes, the interface is not too different from the Android Lollipop, but we got changes to the permission system, improvements to the battery life, changes to the app drawer and the GOOGLE Now and Tap.The new permission system is a great addition. If in the past, in order to install an app you would have to accept all permissions, now, you can install apps without accepting the permission request and only allow access to parts of hardware or software the first time they’re used.

So, apps are now forced to be more transparent about what data they collect. Yes, we know, Apple has used the system for a long time, but we’re glad that at last, Android adopted this really useful system.

The app drawer, now scrolls vertically and features an alphabetical list, giving you faster access to apps; also, five of your recently used apps will appear at the top. There’s also a quick launch bar that guesses what apps you’re trying to access using the letters you typed.

The Auto Backup for Apps is also a cool addition, which backs up everything on your phone automatically. In terms of power management, there is a new Android feature called Doze that puts the 5X to sleep when it’s not used.Besides the software features, there is an Android Marshmallow feature connected to the hardware part, named the Nexus Imprint fingerprint. A lot of smartphones have a fingerprint sensor, but what differentiates it from the others is the position on the back of the phone (GOOGLE claims it’s easier to access this way) and the fact that it’s really fast.

So, as you can see, the Nexus 5X runs a pure Marshmallow Android OS, it has a lot of new features that it successfully takes advantage of and in the end, we really enjoyed the new OS experience.

Camera

Nexus 5X features a 12.3-megapixel rear camera (identical to what you can find on the Nexus 6P) with a wide f/2.0 aperture, a Sony IMX377 sensor (with 1.55-micron pixels), laser autofocus, dual-LED CRI-90 flash and a 5-megapixel front camera with f/2.2 aperture.

The rear camera can shoot some pretty great photos, with clear details, rich colours, especially in good lighting. An odd thing is the omission of the OIS. GOOGLE claims that the larger sensor renders the OIS useless (the larger sensor can capture more light for better indoor photos) and in most situations there’s little to argue about (just don’t have shaky hands).

Taking a photo of the sky in normal mode will result in a overexposed image, so you need to use the HDR+ mode in order to get more balanced whites, but be aware that processing is a bit slow (it may take one or two seconds). Now, concerning the front-facing camera, know that it doesn’t shoot at a very wide angle, but the photos are reasonably sharp and detailed.

The rear camera can record sharp, 4K videos at 30fps (does consume the storage in no time), a common feature for any new smartphone.

Battery Life

Nexus 5X packs a 2,700 mAh battery which will get you from morning to evening on moderate use. It’s not really a good performance, but also, not a bad one. Watching a 2-hour long movie will deplete your battery to 70% and looping a video non-stop will drain the battery in 7 to 8 hours.

Thanks to the new USB charging, the phone recharges completely in under 2 hours and we got 25 percent in under 30 minutes.

Conclusion

We saw that the new Nexus 5X has a great camera, the new Android Marshmallow runs smoothly and is seamlessly integrated, it can run resource-heavy games and the display is great. The design is not exactly premium and the battery life is not the best, but these were the compromises GOGGLE had to make in order to keep the Nexus 5X affordable.