Review: The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness
The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Steve Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard Professor Steve Peters speak at the ASCL conference about his work and his book. As well as being a very entertaining speaker his ideas seemed to make sense, essentially a model for how your brain works and how to learn to work with the primitive aspects to the brain.

I’ll confess I didn’t read the book in the traditional sense but I listened to the book, read by Prof Peters himself (courtesy of my Audible subscription). I find non-fiction books hard to read and thought an audio book would be easier than reading. With a hundred minutes in the car each day the audiobook was indeed better than a paper copy although I did have a tendency to let my mind wander (probably because you don’t get the same kind of imagery in your brain as you do reading a fiction book).

The first few chapters of the book covered the material Steve used in his talk about the chimp, the computer and the human in your brain (SEN teachers will be able to relate to the concept of the chimp being in control!). As well as giving a model to explain how your brain works, the purpose of the book is to train you how to program the brain, replacing the things that happen instinctively with things that you would prefer happen. This is then extended into target/goal setting for yourself and for working with others.

The book avoids using terminology that would bamboozle readers and keeps things simple, explaining why you have to set and follow the strategies set if you want to succeed (and some excellent advice about finding a partner). I would recommend this book to people from all walks of life who want improve their lives by achieving success, happiness and confidence!

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Review: Revival

Revival
Revival by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not one of his best books, I gave up on this and came back to it a month later.

So what’s wrong with the book? Whilst the story telling is up to his usual standard, the story being told is not. It lacks pace and the characters don’t grab you and hold your interest like a regular King book. The plot is slow to develop and consequently the story takes place over the lifetime of the characters involved. The ending is when King chooses to pull the threads together and is adequate but not one of his best.

There are a few chapters where you want to read on and find out what happens next but these are few and far between. I have to say I’m disappointed by this book, it contains the smallest of ideas stretched out to fill a whole book and King is capable of much more…

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Review: The Silkworm

The Silkworm
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book after enjoying the first in the series and this is more of the same. Whilst not quite as good as the first as the first book, this book follows a similar formula with a high profile murder and lots of twists and turns.

Although we are familiar with the characters, Galbraith manages to weave more information about them and their lives into the narrative of the story. The story crafting is good and I found it easy to visualise the characters from the detailed description and attention to detail.

As with the previous book, this is an adults only book with the occasional piece of strong language (thrown in to make a point?). However the pace of the story and the twists and plot developments held me until the end.

I look forward to reading the next in the series!

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Review: Malware

Malware
Malware by Stephen J. Sweeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d rate this book as a 3.5/5

Whilst the first book was more about hacking and a little less far-fetched, this book is what happens after the hacking and when things have all gone wrong. Much of this story happens in cyberspace and it has a number of similarities to the Matrix in that respect.

This isn’t a bad book by any means but it doesn’t live up to the first book. A little far fetched and with a few plot holes (not to mention a very convenient and rosy ending) it lacks the believability of the first instalment.

Read it to find out how the story ends, but it won’t make much sense without the first book to fill in the back story.

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Review: Firmware

Firmware
Firmware by Stephen J. Sweeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The scary thing about this book is that it isn’t too hard to imagine…

At the moment people are concerned about the loss of privacy associated with the internet and smart phones. Some people hack and root their phones to get extra features or make them better (including improving privacy). This story tells of a future where people have chips implanted in their head. A few people have learned how to hack these to give extra abilities and talents.

Unfortunately the company running the chips (and the software) aren’t as transparent as we would like, and it is down to a group of hackers to guess what they are up to.

I enjoyed this book and whilst it isn’t very long (or it didn’t take long to read) I would recommend it to my sci-fi fans. Unfortunately you have to be prepared to read the sequel to find out how it ends but don’t let that put you off!

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Comparing benchmarks – why a cheap 7″ windows tablet might not be such a good deal

I’ve been looking at the HP stream 7 as a cheap email tool – it comes with Office 365 personal so you can run full Office and Outlook on it if required.  It has an Atom processor (reviews suggest the current Atom isn’t that bad, I’ve got a nettop with an old one in packed away somewhere) but the most attractive feature is the price – £90 from the HP store with student discount.

I’m not a huge fan of benchmarks but there are a few browser-based benchmarks that are cross platform and let you compare devices.  I know the browser influences the score so I ran all the tests using Google Chrome, the final results should give a rough yardstick to compare devices.  Using my 10″ touchscreen netbook as a point of reference, I decided to run a couple of benchmarks…

Octane 2.0

Acer Aspire V5 Netbook running an AMD A6 processor- Score 3614

octane netbook

Galaxy Nexus 5 – Score 4163

Screenshot_2014-11-16-17-24-06

Toshiba core i5 (low voltage) based Ultrabook – 17476

HP Stream Octane score – 5897

Sunspider scores

  • Acer Aspire V5 netbook – 1178 ms
  • Galaxy Nexus 5 phone – 907 ms
  • Toshiba i5 ultrabook – 284ms

Whilst these are only a measure of browser performance and not general operating performance, you can see that buying underpowered Windows based tablets may be a false economy if you want to anything but the most basic of tasks.

Review: Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a strange book for Stephen King. No supernatural beings, no aliens, no monsters or rabid animals. This is a classic thriller, the story of a retired cop who is targeted by a serial killer who he failed to catch when he was in service. The story turns into a cat and mouse tale, with the story switching between cop and killer.

What this book has got is the usual hallmarks of a King story. Excellent story telling, well built up and defined characters, a hook at the start to reel you in and plenty of suspense. What there isn’t in this book is anything different or special – whilst I enjoyed the book I felt it wasn’t one of his best books. It felt relatively ordinary and that disappointed me – I expect more from Stephen King.

I would still recommend reading this book but don’t be expecting ghosts, hauntings or supernatural goings-on, there isn’t any – it’s just a plain cop and killer story…

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook rather than read it as a paper/ebook which may be one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much (it makes the journey to and from work much more bearable).

The plot and the storyline isn’t one of the best ever but it was good enough to keep me hooked. The author cleverly leads you through the story getting to know the main characters but moving from suspect to suspect to keep you guessing about the end.

What I really loved about this book was the story telling. When I read a book I want a picture in my head and one thing Galbraith/Rowling does is to create excellent imagery using words. The detail in the book isn’t superfluous but helps add credibility to the story, and gets you involved and believing in the characters.

I loved the two main characters and the back-story that surround their lives. The ex-army private detective who has a fake leg and sleeps in the office, and his temporary secretary who turns out to be one of his greatest assets. The story is about the death of a famous supermodel and the quest to find her killer, and it takes us on a tour through fashion houses and the lives of the rich and famous.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading the next one when I have time!

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Review: CyberStorm

CyberStorm
CyberStorm by Matthew Mather
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A 4.5 star read that I couldn’t put down when I started.

The book gets off to a slow start as the author builds up the characters and you get to know a little about their backgrounds. Stay with the book as the pace gradually picks up and I found myself wanting to know what happens next.

The story starts with the gradual failure of key computer systems and the author skilfully builds this up and expands the situation the characters face, and you find yourself sharing their plight. What makes the story more scary is that it is totally believable and as you read it you find yourself wondering could this really happen?

As with other sci-fi stories with an internet slant, there is a slight stretching of credibility and the obligatory use of a mesh network. However the people (lead characters and the others in the story) are the main focus of the story to which the technology plays an ancillary role. As with all apocalyptic disaster stories there are good friendly people and then there are the people who aren’t so nice. This story has both aplenty from the lovable Russian elderly neighbours who survived terrible events in their past to the thieves who steal food from other characters when it is in short supply.

As I got towards the end of the book I found myself wanting to see how the book would finish, as the story is brought to its conclusion and we find out who was behind the cyberstorm. I like the way the author spent a little time at the end telling us how the story finished and didn’t just leave it with hope in sight (like Hollywood blockbusters do!). Something else that impressed me was finding out that the author self-publishes, I didn’t realise this when I bought the book and wouldn’t have realised at the end had the author not said.

I really enjoyed reading this story and I hope that we don’t find ourselves in this situation in real life…

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Are you aware how much Google knows about you?

I like to think I’m quite technology minded.  I know that Google scans my inbox for spam/security and for advertising purposes.  I’ve opted to let Google keep a record of my internet searches in their web search history (note to the paranoid – they have this information anyway and could hand it over to the security services if required).  I know that Google Now looks for ways it can help me based on my web surfing – for example surf for a place on my computer and my phone offers me directions and journey times without being asked.

I’ve opted to give up a certain amount of privacy in order to get maximum benefit from the other services Google offer – I’m fine with that.  You can see what information Google holds about you by looking in your Google account under the account history tab.  You can see the sort of information they keep below:

google3

You can glean some interesting facts from these options, for example I search Google more on a Sunday…

google2

I was a little surprised by how much information they hold about my location.  I check into public facing services like Facebook but hadn’t given a thought to the fact that my phone checks my location several times a day and that Google actively stores your location on their servers.  Have a look and see where you have been over the last thirty days – it certainly opened my eyes.  This is where Google has tracked me over the last month.

google

I won’t be changing the way I use Google or starting to wear a tinfoil hat but I do think that as a user you should be aware what information Google holds about you.

 

Disclaimer – I’m sure the same is true of Bing and other internet services to a certain extent, but as I don’t use them as much as Google, they won’t hold as much information on me.