Geeky Godmother

Imagine, Inspire, Invention - Your GG is Here to Help

Once Upon a Time...

My random nattering about all things geek, including family, friends and what I find to be fantastic and fun!

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Review: The Lady

Posted on December 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Once in a while, as those who read my reviews on a regular basis know, I end up getting the second volume in a book series without having been given the first book to read. There have been times where I can't get into the book because the story is already so deep that I can't look over the edge to see how it got there.




Pyr recently sent me The Lady, which happens to be the second in a series by Canadian author K.V. Johansen.


While it is a continuation of the first book in the series, it has a couple of advantages that helped me get into the story without having to contact them and ask for the first book. There are two maps - one of the land in general and one of the town where at least half of the action happens. The other advantage is called the "Dramatis Personae" - basically a glossary of characters. The glossary in incredibly detailed and I was able to find every person I had a question about and learn more about them. This really helped me to get more involved in their story.


There were also many references made to how people got where they were in this part of the series. I wasn't left drifting and wondering. Which can be bad, because I make up all kinds of weird and wonderful stories that the author may not like for her creation.


Best of all, the story is really good. Very detailed. So many characters and places, it's like an epic movie. It made me think of something like the old classics - Ben Hur or Cleopatra. I also loved the way the author approached magic. There is human wizardly magic and that of the many demons and gods/goddesses. As well, nothing is black and white. Demons can do good things, Gods can be mad. It keeps you guessing and curious to the very end.


I obviously recommend you begin at the beginning, but I'm quite sure that if the first is as good as the second book in this series, then you're going to enjoy the whole journey from start to finish.


You can get your own copy at Amazon


All the best, your GG

Geek Hero This Week - Ada Lovelace

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Birthday Ada Lovelace. She was born today, December 10, 1815.


Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1840)


Commonly known as Ada Lovelace, she was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often described as the world's first computer programmer.


Sadly she died at age 36 from uterine cancer. What other incredible scientific marvels could she have produced if she had lived longer?


Last image of her before her death in 1852


We're incredibly lucky that she produced what she did for science and math in her too short lifetime.


All the best, your GG

Learn to Program with Minecraft

Posted on December 8, 2014 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Every once in a while I get a book that my family finds far more useful and/or interesting than me, so I let them at it. This time my wonderful husband, and HUGE Minecraft fan, Patrick reviews Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins.



The first thing I have to say, is Don't Buy This Book – but this is not a bad thing - go buy the second edition for reasons to be explained later. Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins has been sitting on the to review pile for far longer than most. Back in the spring, Geeky Godmother put the word out in the household that this book was up for review and would anyone be interested? Now outside of GG herself we are a Minecraft household. The three of us have alpha codes and Gastro Teen in particular mods her install to the breaking point. - and often beyond. Naturally she was more than willing to learn how to further bend the code to her will.

 

So there we were on her fully patch Windows 7 machine ready to start. Command line, work folder structure and decent editor check, check and check - and onto chapter two. And here is where things went sideways. Updating Java was not an issue but trying to get the JDK – the actual tools to program with – that was a fast spiral into darkness and despair. Nothing worked - new versions, old versions weirdly tweaked versions and we saw nothing but error messages. There is a peculiar hell of software installation wherein one will search and find an exact reference to a problem only to follow the link and find the question was asked a decade ago and never responded to let alone solved. Gastro Teen and I found ourselves in this place repeatedly. After hours of searching and tweaking, she had had enough and gave up.

 

Fast forward several months, and I was getting the GG glare – a fearsome thing to experience from this always kindly lady. Since Gastro Teen was out of the picture, it was up to me to produce a review. So i fired up my penguin powered laptop and a couple of apt-get installs later, I had a functioning Java development environment and was ready to tackle installing the CraftBuckit server and API. Except – in the intervening months, there had been a falling out between several developers, CraftBuckit had been pulled and was nowhere to be found. I now refer you to the first sentence of this review. Mr. Hunt has re-written the examples in the book to use a new server that should be around for the foreseeable future and released a second edition. However, I was left with a first edition to review. Fortunately I was able to find a copy of CraftBuckit buried in the deepest recesses of my hard drive and move forward.

 

In the weeks since, I have worked through some of the chapters so I can finally talk about the book itself. Hunt walks the reader through programming Java in the usual fashion introducing variables, functions and objects and how and when to use them. This is a proven if not particularly innovative approach that readers will find in any book on programming.

 

However Hunt shines in three areas. The first is in the choice of subject. Most programming books will use a very practical but not very interesting and often text based data base or business program as an example. By choosing Minecraft instead, Hunt gives the budding Java programmer an interactive and more importantly interesting world to work with. Secondly Hunt provides examples of broken code and both challenges and guides the reader through how to fix or improve it. Coding is easy bug hunting is hard. Hunt does the reader a great service by recognizing this. Finally, Hunt includes sample code that does things that are interesting and useful yet simple enough to understand to make the reader want to experiment with them – and that is the fun part of programming. Who doesn't want to see a squid bomb in their Minecraft world? Hunt's book should encourage a whole new generation to pickup programming as a career or just for fun.

 

With the caveats that setting up the development environment might pose problems and that you should get the second edition, Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins is recommended for anyone interested in learning to program in Java in a fun, interactive and interesting environment. Now I am off to see if I can make cows shoot fireworks when frightened.


Thanks to my fabulous computer geek husband for the amazing review. You can get a copy of the 2nd Edition HERE


All the best, your GG

Free Holiday Family Fun

Posted on December 6, 2014 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Join the Canadian Film Institute and the National Gallery of Canada on the shortest day of the year (Sunday, December 21) to watch some great, family-friendly short films in the Gallery’s auditorium.



 

The program is part of the annual cross-country celebration organized by Telefilm Canada and its partners the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC). The Shortest Day was initiated by Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) in France in 2011 and has spread to more than 50 other countries.

 

The program will feature at 11am an hour-long screening for kids of 8 and under that includes the presentation of several fun, easy to watch classics such as The Cat Came Back. Families with older children will enjoy the 1pm screening with classic films such as The Sweater and the Academy Award winner The Danish Poet.

 

Hang out at the National Gallery before or after the screenings to visit the exhibitions or take part in the family-friendly Artissimo workshops, or do some last minute shopping in the bookstore.

 

"Families looking for some inexpensive activities during the holidays are really going to enjoy these free Shortest Day of the Year screenings at the National Gallery of Canada. We are excited to kick off the holidays by hosting such a great program" says CFI organizer Kelly Neall.

 

Get your free tickets and more information at the Canadian Film Institute


Family fun that's great for all ages and Free. AND will keep them occupied so close to Christmas. Perfect.


All the best, your GG

My Friend Merlin

Posted on December 1, 2014 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Last year I met Ottawa children's author and educator Joanne Lecuyer. Almost exactly this time last year I reviewed her book Captain Vamp.


We met again recently at Pop Expo and she introduced me to her latest book - My Friend Merlin



The author has taken a few parts of the original Arthurian legends, and some inspiration from the recent British series Merlin, and created a wonderful story for children in grades 1 to 5 (although the story is appropriate for any age).


Arthur's father has banned magic in the kingdom. But Merlin wants to help those in need. When he becomes friends with Arthur he must prove that his intentions are good. In the process of doing so, he also teaches him a few other lessons about magic, including the truth about dragons... and how to ride them!



The illustrations are done by local artist Rich Lauzon. In 2013 he and the author were seated next to each other at an event and Rich created an illustration that inspired Joanne to work on this story. A tweaked version of that image is the first in chapter one of the book.


Their collaboration works beautifully, and together they keep the story light and fun. My Friend Merlin is delightful, and it's a perfect way to introduce young children to the classic legend of Arthur and Merlin. Parents, you may want to brush up on the legend yourself. There very well may be questions after either you read this book to them, or they read it themselves.


I highly recommend this book. You can get your own copy from Topsy Books and Amazon


All the best, your GG

Geek Hero This Week - Mom

Posted on November 19, 2014 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (2)

If my mom was still with us, she would have turned 90 years old yesterday. That reminder came from my oldest sister. All my siblings were close to my mom, but we all grew up in different eras and had different experiences with her.


She was such a cutie.


For me, the baby of the family, I grew up when all my siblings were moved out and I had my mom all to myself. During the week, when my dad did evening shift work, my mom and I would curl up and watch shows like Fantasy Island on the little tv in their bedroom. When I was a teenager she loved to go with me to see new horror movies. Wonder if my sisters and brother knew that mom was a fan of slasher films like Friday the 13th.


My mom lived through WWII. She moved to a new country with a 5 and 3 year old, with no friends and very little english. She worked hard for her family. I appreciate all she did for us, but what I appreciate most is that when she had some down time she simply loved to snuggle up and watch geeky television and film with me. I'll be forever grateful for that time together.


Thanks Mom.


All the best, your GG

Sword of The Bright Lady

Posted on November 18, 2014 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Author M.C. Planck has led a very interesting life. I believe his travels and experiences have influenced his latest novel - Sword of The Bright Lady.



The main character, Christopher Sinclair, is simply walking his dogs one mild evening in Arizona. Next thing he knows he's in a freezing cold land of winter and he doesn't remember getting there. Lucky for him, Christopher is taken in by some lovely people in a nearby village, but he can't understand their language and everything about them screams medieval. At first he thinks he's gone back in time, but then he discovers that there is magic here too. He is very far out of his element.


Although Christopher has been thrown into a world very different from his own, he has brought with him skills that may help him survive. He is a wiz with a katana and he is a mechanical engineer, both of which come in very handy throughout the story. And while being able to wield a sword is a pretty standard advantage in a magical fantasy land, being a mechanical engineer is generally not. What Christopher does to improve his situation, using his knowledge of engineering and modern day business, turns what could have been a basic fantasy tale into something different. Using a lot more brain power than muscle throughout the story is also good for Christopher, and not simply because he's considered an old man. (really he's only around 30, which in our day and age is not old) Physical fighting in this world very often gets you badly injured or worse, dead. However, this is where the magic has an advantage. You can buy healing and, more costly of course, life. The cost for the cure though is horrifying and one of the reasons Christopher decides to change the way things are done.


By the end of the book he's been through hell and back.  He has learned many lessons, but at the same time he has taught many non-magical advantages to his new found comrades too.  If you're a fantasy geek who also loves anything mechanical and industrial, with war and magic as a bonus, you will really enjoy Sword of The Bright Lady.


You can pick up a copy through amazon.ca


All the best, your GG


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